Here we are seven-plus years after Adam Lind’s big-league debut still trying to figure out exactly what to make of the Toronto Blue Jays slugger.
The 29-year-old with the sweet swing and resume of mixed results is off to an intriguing start through the first month and a half of the 2013 season, a remarkable new plate discipline that has him sporting an on-base percentage of .411 now starting to generate power numbers more in line with past production.
By no means is he back to where he was during his Silver Slugger campaign of 2009, or even his all-star calibre first half of 2011, but to borrow, sort of, from Dennis Green, perhaps Lind isn’t really who we thought he was as a hitter.
Maybe, just maybe, the soul searching and series of adjustments that followed his demotion to triple-A Las Vegas last summer have him on track to at least become a ruthless masher of right-handed pitchers, if not a middle-of-the-order every day bat again.
No matter which way things turn out for Lind - .407/.448/.815 in his last eight games, .286/.411/.468 overall in 29 contests - he's someone who bears watching as the Blue Jays (17-24) look to pull themselves out of a quarter-mark-of-the-season chasm.
"Yeah, there were moments," he replies when asked if his struggles the past few years shook his confidence in becoming a productive big-leaguer again. "But it was on me. I wasn't being a smart hitter, I was being stubborn and for lack of a better word, stupid."
Lind is certainly being much smarter at the plate right now, and it all starts with a selectiveness at the plate he has never shown before that goes well beyond his 17 walks against 12 strikeouts.
Consider that of the 43 outs he's made on balls in play through 95 plate appearances, only five have come on balls out of the strike zone, according to pitch charting by Bloomberg Sports. Of the 74 times he's swung and missed, only 10 have been on balls out of the strike zone.
That means the vast majority of the time he's forcing pitchers to put the ball over the plate to earn an out, rather than doing the heavy lifting for them. As a result, good things tend to follow.
"I've decided not to be stubborn anymore and just try to hit fastballs," explains Lind. "There are times you can do that, but there are times you have to realize pitchers aren't going to throw you fastballs. There were times last year they'd throw me two fastballs for balls on purpose so they could throw me a 2-0 changeup and I'd just ground out. Hopefully with the walks I've taken and the at-bats I've had, it won't let them go about it that way because I've been more patient at the plate."
Lind has also shown an ability to do damage against a variety of pitches.
Of his 22 hits, nine have come on fastballs (six singles, two doubles, one homer), six on sliders (four singles, double, homer), six on changeups (three singles, two doubles, homer) and one base hit on a curveball.
That's both a product of his discipline in the zone, and improved game-planning, as evidenced in the first inning of Wednesday's 11-3 whipping of the San Francisco Giants. Having watched the swings other hitters took off Ryan Vogelsong in previous outings, Lind felt he'd have a good chance to identify the right-hander's pitches so he decided to look fastball and adjust.
With the count 1-1, he unloaded on a changeup for a two-run shot that put the Blue Jays up 4-1.
"Sometimes you might have a feeling from pitch to pitch, sometimes you've got to sit on that one pitch the whole at-bat and wait until he throws it, because most likely they're going to throw you a slider or changeup at some point, and when they throw it you've got to hit it," says Lind. "But when you're looking for those pitches, it's also a lot easier to lay off if they're balls."
The Blue Jays very much need Lind's new approach to continue translating into his recent power surge, as an impact left-handed bat in the middle of the order will help lengthen the lineup and, perhaps more importantly, balance the right-handed thump of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia.
It may also provide them with some clarity on what to do with Lind at season's end, when a decision must be made on the first of three club options on his contract - worth US$7 million with a $2 million buyout - must be made.
"If I play good this year and the team plays good this year, hopefully I'll be able to come back. If not, then I'll enjoy my last season as a Blue Jay," he says. "I haven't thought about the option, I just know that there's a chance (it gets picked up), I don't know if it's strong or not, or what the team wants to do, who the other free agents are. Whatever happens will happen."
All Lind can do is put up numbers and give the Blue Jays, or another team, reason to want him for 2014 and beyond.
While batting .305 with 35 homers, 46 doubles and 114 RBIs the way he did in 2009 under the tutelage of Cito Gaston may be unattainable again, he has much more to offer than the collective .246/.296/.428 he batted from 2010 through 2012.
"It was just the amount of failure," Lind says of what led him to change. "You go to Vegas, it's all about the swing, what type of swing you've got. Rarely do people ever say it's the pitches you're swinging at, or ask why you're swinging at those pitches. It's just having a game-plan. I had game-plans with Cito because he'd tell me what to do, and things just fell into line that year. I finally started being a smart hitter at the end of last year, and I started having success against lefties, I got hits off Jake McGee and Boone Logan, and that was the first time I ever had hits against those guys, and that's part of it, maturing as a hitter and realizing pitchers aren't going to give you fastballs every time."
Meet the new Adam Lind - different, smarter and, maybe, much better.