When the Seattle Mariners acquired Adam Lind over the offseason we all knew that it would be as a part of a platoon. Names were thrown around like Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, and that guy from the National League. There were other guys who were thought of as ideal candidates to mash lefties, maybe even you were asked. As we all know, however, that man was eventually decided upon (and it was not a man, but a mountain) was named Dae-Ho Lee. The season started, shall we say rough, for Adam, and the M's seemingly played a ton of lefties out of the gate and Lee got a healthy amount of AB's while we watched Adam flounder. Playing the large side of the platoon against righty starters, Adam figured to be more or less a full-time player at first base for the M's in 2016. Well, something has changed. And nothing was the same.
Cheap Drake lyrics aside, it's been awhile since we checked in on Adam since he started the season as one of the worst position players in baseball. His early season -0.7 fWAR was, well, really bad. However, back then, into early May, he was posting something like a .220 BABIP and it took him a long, long time to hit a ball further than the limits of the field. We call these home runs, of which, Adam now has 12. At the writing of this article, things haven't really gotten that much better for Lind, who has seen his fWAR value rise to -0.4 fWAR. What's worse, in terms of evaluating his total production, he now suffers the DH penalty because Dae-Ho Lee has recently taken over full-time duty at the one bag.
Adam isn't having an awesome year. After a horrible April, followed by a torrid May, then followed by an almost equally bad June, he's a difficult case to call. He just may settle into a serviceable DH, and will, unless something catastrophic occurs, easily hit 20 home runs this year. Combine that with DHL's production and first base has likely become a position that will produce 40 bombs this year. That is a lot of jogging. However, Lind and DHL now essentially take up two spots on a lineup card (maybe more like 1.5), so that production isn't solely at first base. It's spread around. Earlier in the season, I pointed out that first base may be a position of need come the trade deadline, and I still think you could probably do better there. However, let's take a closer look at this 2016 version of Adam Lind before making a verdict.
Lind was brought in to mash righties; yet, in VERY limited number of PA's vs southpaws (read: less than than 30), his wRC+ is only two points lower. It isn't because he's destroying them, either (his wRC+ against right-handers is only 89). It's because he's sort of stopped putting the ball in play. Among all of the metrics that measure Adam's offense, what has taken one of the most drastic shifts is his increase in fouling off pitches from 58.1% for his career average to fouling off a pitch in nearly 70% of his swings. The eye test seems to check out on this as well.
For what it's worth, Lind is suffering from what looks like some really poor luck. His .261 BABIP through the first half of the season is more that 40 points below his career norm despite the fact that his hard hit data is on point with his usual spray. His Hard Hit% has jumped something like 15% from his career. Perhaps he's becoming a victim of the shift, but his wRC+ with and without the shift is nearly identical. He's suffering the classic issue of an elevated K% and a falling BB%. The K% isn't drastic compared to his career norms, however. This is likely because he's pressing; the old adage of always finding yourself 0-2 when you're in a slump is true, usually because you're playing outside of yourself. Adam is chasing balls out of the zone over 30% more often than his career average. He's missing the good pitches and chasing the bad ones.
Despite his monster May, Lind has yet to settle into Seattle. He lost the first base job to Lee. He's having worse luck on batted balls. But maybe, and this is a just maybe, Lind is getting old. Fouling off strikes can be an indicator of a bat getting a tick too slow or an eye starting to glean less and less information about the proper speed. BABIP be damned, if Lind is starting to fall off an age cliff, it just may be manifesting itself in fouling off more balls than putting them in play.
The "DFA Lind" crowd is a ridiculous one to me. He's still an MLB-quality hitter who you don't expect to run a .261 BABIP for an entire season. If anything, he's due for a tear. The Hard Hit data shows that the bat speed isn't gone, his contact rates haven't fallen off, and he's actually using the opposite field more than usual. He, more than likely, simply needs to stop fouling off good pitches. Regardless, he'll still have 20 dingers, and if that BABIP can climb back to it's usual heights, Lind is still a useful piece to the second most potent offense in the MLB (by wRC+).
Let's hope for more of this.