Mission ’13: The Jays Need a Consistent Lefty Bat

It’s been interesting to watch the Jays this season. I say interesting because if I use some other word, I might start crying or throw a stool through the window. One Jay that I’ve tracked regularly but nonchalantly (I’m not a stalker…really, I’m not) is Adam Lind. I hoped for a little more of a breakout season from him. Perhaps you did, too. He seemed healthy, and I believed the line-up really needed his bat to be consistent. His consistency would help the rest of the line-up to be consistent, or so I reasoned.

I thought that way because the Jays have a host of strong right handed batters and a couple of switch hitters, but they’ve lacked a consistent left-handed hitter. Colby Rasmus has been inconsistent as a Blue Jay but offers stability in center field. I can take that without much contribution in any other way (offense; base running). Nope, it was going to be Adam Lind or another acquisition.

It’s no secret that Lind has struggled since his ‘breakout’ season in 2009. I single quote the word breakout, because he hasn’t followed it up with anything even remotely close to it. In other words, it may turn out to be no more than a career year. One reason he’s struggled is his recurring back problems. Having suffered some fairly serious back troubles in my day, I can sympathize: it really does a number on you. Other reasons have included swinging like a barn door at breaking pitches down and away and fastballs up and in. Then there was his tendency to pop up so often, as Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells did so frequently. So I thought I’d see if there was a correlation between Lind’s performance, which has been better this year than the last 3 seasons, and the Jays’ performance as a team.

Much like the Jays as a team, Adam Lind stumbled out of the gate. He was 0 for the first 4 games, and didn’t get his 10th hit until April 23rd against Baltimore. There was no reason to think that Lind’s struggles and the Jays’ struggles were connected. He wasn’t hitting, but no one was playing well.

He began to hit a little before April (mercifully) came to an end, but he dipped again at the end of the month and into the first couple of days in May. His slash line on May 2 was .220/.394/.280. He wasn’t hitting much but, at a pace of twice for every five PAs, he was getting on base at an excellent clip. Most of that OBP was attributable to base on balls. I remember thinking that he was striking the ball well, but making outs. We also notice that he had the power of a 8-year old schoolgirl. Check that, we don’t want to insult the girls. The team record on May 2 was 10-19.

Then he went on a tear. During the 30-game period from May 3 until June 10, Lind went 47-113 (.416) with 8 walks, 9 2B and 6 HR. There were 2 distinct segments in that time frame. Lind was hitting like a live-ball era superstar in the first 20 games, going 26-66 (.394). The next 10 games he was otherworldly, going 21-47 (.447). His slash line on June 10 was .335/.413/.532. This 30-game stretch saw the Jays improve dramatically, as they went 16-14.

He continued to hit during the win streak, too. I think it’s fair to say that most of us expected something of the sort all season. Not only were they winning, bit they were beating some pretty good teams. Perhaps, we thought, they’ve hit their stride. Incredibly, Adam Lind maintained his hot streak. We’d grown accustomed to seeing him get very hot for stretches over the last few years, but nothing like this. He’d already been hot for 30 games, but another 9 games? Forty-ish games of hot hitting suggested that Lind turned a corner offensively. His slash line at the end of the 11-game win streak stood at .337/.402/.554.This is the left-handed power hitting 1B/DH that the Jays needed.

This also means the ‘platoon’ of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind (it’s more like job sharing than a classic platoon) wasn’t merely good: it was superb. Since Adam Lind found his stroke on May 3 the Jays were 27-14, pushing their record to 38-36.

The Jays have fallen on hard times since Tampa stuck a pin in their balloon. They were 38-36; now they’re 54-62. A 16-26 post-win-streak record has effectively ended their chances of the season many, including me, expected. Adam Lind’s slash line after today’s 5-4 win over Oakland (Lind was 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K) is .279/.347/.472. Since the streak ended Lind isn’t hitting or getting base regularly, and his power has dropped off dramatically.

I didn’t think there was much of a correlation between Adam Lind and the fortunes of the Blue Jays and, realistically speaking, I still don’t think there is. However, I do think that there’s a correlation between the Jays’ fortunes and a solid, consistent left handed bat. Consider the following: Adam Lind has played 37 games since the win streak ended and he has 27 hits. Lind’s hit distribution and the Jays’ record looks like this:

Lind’s Hit Total

The Jays’ Record

0 hits

3-13

1 hit

9-8

2+ hits

2-2

His walks (13 since the win streak) don’t correlate directly to wins. Five of those walks came in two games and the Jays lost both of those games. They’re 3-5 in the other games. Thirteen walks since the streak, and the Jays are 3-7 in those games. The walks are more meaningful at a personal level. Walks mean that Lind is seeing the ball well, and that perhaps another hot streak is on the horizon.

How do I interpret all of this? The Jays need a consistent lefty bat hitting either 4th or 5th in the line-up. It might mean bumping Edwin down in the line-up, but that kind of thing doesn’t matter after a season like this. I don’t think that left handed bat is Adam Lind. Lind is hitting better than he has, but back troubles and inconsistency continue to plague him. The Jays are a different team when he has hit well: they’re an average-to-good team, rather than a bad team. The problem is that Lind had 58 hits in 39 games from May 3-June 23. He has 37 hits in the other 62 games. The Jays need a lefty bat that produces more consistently than twice every 5 games (40%).

Don’t get me wrong. The disappointment of the 2013 season doesn’t rest on Adam Lind’s shoulders. I’m also not saying that the Jays would be in the hunt if Adam Lind was having an all star-calibre campaign. What I am saying is that one of the weaknesses on this squad is a consistent, solid left handed bat. Without it the Jays’ line-up is unbalanced and struggles unnecessarily.

Do I have any suggestions or am I just part of the problem, complaining and whining about their poor performance? Well, I’m no GM but I can say with a decent amount of confidence that Melky Cabrera isn’t the answer in left field, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis aren’t the answer at 2B, and Adam Lind probably isn’t the answer at 1B/DH. JP Arencibia isn’t the answer behind the plate, either. Quality LH replacements at one or more of these positions might serve 2 functions, offering the Jays superior defense as well as a more balanced offensive attack. This doesn’t make them a playoff team necessarily—there’s still an under-performing rotation to consider—but it probably makes them better. How much better? Marginally better? A lot better? I don’t know, but the tentative correlation between Adam Lind’s success and the Blue Jays’ success suggests it’s not a mirage.

Wes Kepstro

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4 Responses to “Mission ’13: The Jays Need a Consistent Lefty Bat”


  1. 1 @ALEastbound August 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Joey Votto… Joey fn Votto

    • 2 Wes Kepstro August 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      This is partly why I wanted Morneau or Mauer (but especially Mauer). Votto or Mauer would be brilliant, which is exactly why it won’t happen. ‘Brilliance’ is conspicuously absent from the Blue Jays of late…

  2. 3 Idiot Fan August 12, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Anybody else hear that thud? That was the Jays season. I agree here, changes are needed at multiple positions, if AA thinks this team can suddenly become great he is mistaken.

    • 4 Wes Kepstro August 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      And after today’s game… A rare good outing by a starter wasted.

      It seems as if this team can’t put anything together. The pitching is good, but the ‘pen is bad. The ‘pen is great, but the defense is awful. The defense and pitching are good, but the offense is AWOL. The offense is great, but the base running is bad. More consistency from each facet of the game gives this team 5-8 more wins and prepares them for next year.

      It’s been a tough year to be a Jays’ fan. I expect next year will be tough, too.


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