Lind Busting Out

The Blue Jays success is probably the biggest story early of the first 20% of the major league season. The preseason focus was squarely on the Boston/New York/Tampa triumvirate of power, with Baltimore and Toronto relegated to tough luck also-rans in the best division in baseball. A good defense and a strong bullpen wasn’t expected to be able to make up for an offense that had some problems and a patchwork rotation, and even finding someone who thought the Jays would finish above .500 was a challenge.

However, the Jays offense has been a monster so far this year, scoring runs in bunches and pounding opposing pitchers into submission. The huge surprise has been the inexplicable surge from Marco Scutaro, but just as vital to the team’s success has been the mashing of Adam Lind. The 26-year-old had posted just a pedestrian .282/.316/.439 in 349 plate appearances last year after a .238/.278/.400 line in 311 PA in 2007. Put together, his ’07/’08 seasons inspired little confidence, as he played at +0.2 win level over a full season’s worth of innings.

2009 was essentially Lind’s make or break year. If he flopped at the plate again, he risked getting tagged as a AAAA player, a guy who could hit minor league pitching but couldn’t translate that success against higher quality pitchers. It’s still early, but Lind is doing everything possible to ensure that the season ends up making his career instead of ending it.

His .333/.405/.561 line is eerily similar to the .328/.394/.534 mark he posted in Triple-A last year. His walk rate, strikeout, and isolated power are all almost identical to what he did in the International League last year as well. He’s never going to be the most patient guy in the league, but he’s doing a better job of swinging at strikes, cutting his O-Swing% from 34% last year to 24% this year. He’s been far more selective overall, as he’s swinging the bat just 40% of the time this year, way down from his 50% mark in his previous major league trials.

Despite swinging less often, his contact rate is basically unchanged, suggesting that Lind’s change is almost entirely related to chasing less bad pitches. By refining his approach and making pitchers throw him something he can hit, he’s establishing himself as a legitimate major league hitter.

He’s almost certainly not this good, of course. The updated daily ZIPS projection that we debuted here on the site today projects him for a .349 wOBA over the rest of the 2009 season, way down from the .417 wOBA he’s currently posting. His current .384 batting average on balls in play isn’t sustainable, no matter how much more patient he has gotten. Regression is coming. But his early season performance should give Blue Jays fans hope that Lind can hit major league pitching.

It may have taken him awhile to adjust, but it’s unlikely that Lind will be making any return trips to the minors anytime soon.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Hey Dave, this is Eric from Redding in MMBL. After returning from a long baseball hiatus, I was glad to see you writing for Fangraphs, a site I enjoy! Keep up the great work! Anyway, what do you think of Lind’s fielding? I’ve noted what looks to be conflicting conclusions based on the various metrics. UZR liked him well enough in a small ’07 sample, but he’s looked like Jason Kubel with more pop since then. Is the guy a DH at 25?! Take care …