The Evolution of Adam Lind
|Courtesy of Yahoo/AP|
The old saying goes that a leopard can’t change its spots. So I suppose that means a baseball player can’t change their tendencies either … or can they?
Adam Lind is proving to be the exception to that rule.
One year ago, after starting off the first two months of the season batting a paltry .186, the Blue Jays optioned Adam Lind to Triple A Las Vegas, and subsequently outrighted him off the 40-man roster just a few weeks later.
Needless to say, that was likely Adam Lind’s rock bottom. But it’s incredible how much things can change in one year. He’s evolved from a low on base guy, to the man with the highest on base percentage on the Blue Jays 25-man roster.
Yes, the very man who has been criticized in past years for his inability to draw a walk now has a higher on base percentage than Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Just let that sink in for a moment.
So not only is Adam Lind swinging at far less pitches outside the strike zone, he’s actually showing an incredible amount of patience and swinging at less pitches inside the zone as well. His total swing percentage is down to 37.5%, by far the lowest of his career.
|Adam Lind Swing Percentage|
Lind is also whiffing less on pitches, as his swinging strike percentage is down to 6.1%, a far departure from 10.7% in both his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. There are signs Adam Lind cut down on his strikes last season, but it’s dropped even further in 2013.
|Adam Lind Swinging Strikes|
Adam Lind has a renewed sense of discipline at the plate in 2013, as he’s averaging 4.19 pitches per plate appearance. 46 games is not a full sample size, but that’s a significant increase on previous years, compared to Lind’s career average of 3.84 pitches per plate appearance.
|Year||Strike %||Strikes Looking %|
The funny thing is Lind is actually looking at more strikes this season; 38% compared to a career average of around 28%. However, being more far more selective is leading to more pitches outside the zone, hence the huge spike in walks for Adam Lind in 2013.
Looking at more strikes is allowing Lind to work deeper into the count, thus leading to the significant increase in walks, which account for 12.9% of his plate appearances this season. Over his career, Adam Lind has averaged around 7.1% walks in his plate appearances.
At the rate he’s going (one walk every 6.6 plate appearances), if Adam Lind stays healthy and continues to receive everyday at bats, he could finish the season somewhere in the neighbourhood of 90 walks. That’s Jose Bautista territory, folks.
Chris Toman has a great breakdown over at GameReax about the benefits Adam Lind is receiving from the platoon advantage. While it’s true John Gibbons was protecting Lind from left-handed pitching, Adam is seeing increased playing time against lefties.
Now the reason for that is predominately because the Blue Jays need Lind’s glove at first and Encarnacion’s at third, but Adam has certainly looked capable against lefties, batting .467 this year (albeit in 11 plate appearances).
Lind facing lefties may have just been a creature of necessity, and now with Interleague play coming to a close and Lind’s platoon partner Rajai Davis activated off the DL, John Gibbons may elect to keep Adam shielded from lefties.
Obviously the million dollar question is what was it that caused Adam Lind to suddenly turn the corner and transform himself into an on base machine. I think it’s really as simple as working the count.
In the past, Adam Lind was extremely aggressive at the plate, swinging early and often in his plate appearances. Perhaps that’s product of the Cito Gaston and Dwayne Murphy “grip it and rip it” philosophy, but the league seemingly caught on to Lind following his breakout 2009 season.
The catalyst for this renewed approach at the plate seems to point towards hitting coach Chad Mattola. Adam Lind spent ample time with him in Las Vegas last season, and their work must have carried over into this season.
This would indicate that the seed for Adam Lind’s transformation was planted at some point last year, likely during his time in Las Vegas and rehabbing his back injury.
I’ll completely admit that I thought Adam Lind was a one trick pony, but I’ll gladly admit that I was wrong. He is proof that hitters can in fact change; that they can evolve from a stereotypical slugger to a player with a very keen eye.
Adam Lind may not be the player he once was, but the Blue Jays don’t need him to be that player again. There are plenty of other players on the roster who fit the mold of power hitter/high strikeout guys.
The Blue Jays don’t need another J.P. Arencibia or Colby Rasmus, they need complete players. What they need is Adam Lind to simply be a contributing member to the starting lineup; and he’s doing all that and much more.