Baseball is a fickle sport. It cares not for your predictions, your carefully-thought-through words that made so much sense, your adherence to common wisdom. Remember last year's Mariners and the numerous World Series titles they were awarded in the preseason? Yeah, that didn't work out great.
And just as that team fell flat, so too has this team out-performed most "expert" predictions. Yours truly pegged this ballclub as an 83-win team before the season, figuring that the bullpen might fall flat and Robinson Cano might not be ROBINSON CANO again. Thank goodness I've been wrong so far.
But, here we are. This team is here to stay. And so many of Jerry Dipoto's offseason moves have worked out thus far. Take a gander at center field, where Leonys Martin has developed power to go along with his All-World defense. Ketel Marte is making DiPOTUS look brilliant for dealing away Brad Miller and letting the youngster play short. And yesterday's performance is so, so encouraging for Adam Lind, a player who has been slumping to say the least.
The burly first baseman was Lindcredible last night (sorry, I had to). He entered last night with just six extra-base hits on the season and left with three more, two light tower shots to right field and a wall-ball double to right-center. He had driven in just 12 runs before yesterday; he added six thanks to those three hits as well as an RBI single to beat the shift in the fifth.
We know how disappointing Lind has been all season, and there's been quite a lot of talk about perhaps giving Lind's at-bats to Dae-Ho Lee. Lee has been good in limited action, it's true, but for my money I think a lot of the hype around him is because he's so damn lovable.
It's unquestionable, however, that we need Lind to play a lot closer to last night than the rest of the campaign thus far. Below are the hits that Lind picked up last night - let's see if they hint at anything interesting.
At-Bat #1 - Two-run homer to right
Zach Neal is not an MLB veteran. Zach Neal likely thought he could sneak a 91 MPH fastball past Lind. He did, once. Then Zach, poor Zach, decided to give Lind a shot at redemption - and Lind turned on it and blasted it to outer space. This is why Zach Neal is not a major league starting pitcher.
At-Bat #2 - Three-run homer to right
In this at-bat, Neal tried to waste a changeup in the dirt and get Lind out in front. But unfortunately for the A's rookie, he tested the wrong spot. For his career, Lind slugs .556 on pitches in that sector - his best in any area outside of the strike zone and better than a couple spots within the zone, even.
But it's not just that - when he gets an off-speed pitch there, he especially destroys it. Check out the slugging percentage in that zone against off-speed offerings. This is a pitch that he's routinely crushed in his career, and it's good to see it happening again.
Here are the two homers on video - plus the Cruz and Cano dingers from last night for good measure. For a guy who is a pretty strong pull hitter, it's good to see him get around on these inside pitches and take care of business, especially that first dinger off a fastball.
At-Bat #3 - RBI Single through shortstop hole
This at-bat has a weird result - a strange little nubber that gets past the shifted shortstop. But what's encouraging about it is that it came against a lefty, Marc "Scrabble Hero" Rzepczynski. Nobody wants Lind to face lefties with any sort of regularity, but there will be times when he'll have to face southpaws, and it's important that he's able to approach respectability against them.
At-Bat #4 - RBI Double to right-center
Lind took a sinker over the middle of the plate and ripped it. This is a result of confidence - when you're 3-3 with a pair of homers, you're looking to crush everything you see. It's hard to say why Andrew Triggs (literally never heard of him) decided to give Lind two pitches right down the pipe, but again, that's why the A's don't exactly have a lot of postseason hopes this year.
What does all of this mean?
For starters, we need to hold off on the Adam Lind voodoo dolls and just give him some more time. Advanced stats don't fully back the fans' claims of calamitous collapse. Most worrying is the increased K% (23%, up from a career rate of 18.9) and the decreased line drive rate (a career-worst 14.1%). But, per Fangraphs, he's making hard contact at a career-best percentage (42.4% compared to 35.1% for his entire ML tenure). He's also sporting a .274 BABIP, which seems likely to increase.
There's also something to be said for the confidence boost that correlates with a game like this. After two months of pretty tough struggles in a new city, with the pressure on to perform, Lind had an excellent game, the kind that many players would love to have as the best of their entire seasons or even careers. Eleven total bases? Six RBI? Having Scott Servais keep him in against a lefty and getting a hit? Talk about assuaging doubts.
I want to see Dae-Ho succeed. I really do. And I think Adam Lind getting his own performance up will help Dae-Ho remain in situations where we know he can flourish. Yesterday could easily be the first step down that path.
Either way, today is an off-day. The Mariners are TEN - yes, TEN! - games above .500 and in first place by a game and a half. I'm going to my first home game of the season on Friday. We have lots of reason to be happy right now. With luck, so does Adam Lind.
Go M's. pic.twitter.com/7Nqtpm20Jz— Colin O'Keefe (@colinokeefe) May 26, 2016