Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adam Lind is now a Brewer

Baseball?  What?  It's November.  The NFL is full swing.  College Hoops is sprouting from the fertile ground.  Not to mention the NBA.  OK, not to mention the NBA.  Well, maybe it's because we just finished seeing Madison Bumgarner give the single greatest pitching performance of our lifetimes over the course of this World Series.  Hands Down.  No Hyperbole.  Or, maybe it's because the Brewers just traded for Adam Lind.

First off, I haven't read anything on this trade, beyond a couple texts from folks saying the Brewers traded Swing man Marco Estrada to the Blue Jays for 1B/DH Adam Lind.  So, whatever this post becomes is going to be straight opinion rather than some Dialectical mashup formed from the Frankensteining of 8 different articles on the subject.  Now that that's qualified, let's get to the straight dope.

Gotta say, I love Adam Lind.  In more than a platonic fashion.  I mean look at this guy's face.  It's like he took a digger in Chorlton's bathroom, after dipping his chin in a vat of Vaseline.  For this reason alone, we should embrace him with open arms.

Adam Lind Facial Hair Watch scorecard

Adam Lind weighs in at a "listed weight" of anywhere from "195" to "210" pounds, but that's a laughable stretch in the way Prince Fielder used be listed at 6'0, 250 lbs.  This dude is not 195 pounds.  No way.  Throw in some brats, cheese curds, and a few steins of the Champagne of Beers, and I predict Lind will be pushing 250 in no time (although Poutine is no joke.  I shant disparage Poutine, not on these holy pages).  I also predict the Brewers will "list" him at a more appropriate "230", a weight which won't shake the less delicate sensibilities South of the Border.

One aspect of this outsized persona that needs some serious attention is Adam Lind's beard.  Come on, it's Movember after all.  I mean, look at that Orangutan on Lind's chin.  Check out the shades- Lind is not lacking self-awareness.  Ask yourself, is this a shit eating grin?  Did he lose a bet?  He had to lose a bet.  These guys hate it.  These guys love it.  My wife hates it.  This guy likes to touch it.  And yes, of course his beard has a twitter account.  Did I mention his eerie resemblance to this guy?  Pink tights on 250 pound ginger- what could go wrong?

Want more?  Feast your eyes on this: Witness the speed, the grace, the charm, the wit.
He's safe.  He knows it.  But he still wants to help the ump with the call.  Nice guy.  If Adam Lind was your neighbor, I bet he'd shovel your walk for you.  If he was a politician, he'd definitely kiss your baby.

But seriously, and most importantly, Adam Lind is a left handed power hitter, a component sorely missing from the current Brewer lineup.  Here comes a brief aside- I watched WAY too much baseball this past two summers.  Probably enough to get committed in a state like Mississippi, and that's saying something.  Chalk it up to a combination of fatherhood, fantasy baseball, and a pre-existing condition in the realm of OCD.  Anyway, that quasi-humblebrag aside, I'd reckon I've seen 80% of Lind's at-bats over the past two seasons. (ed. note- give or take 40%) Here's what I saw- the good news first:

1) He absolutely destroys right handed pitching. (subject to the editor, but memory serves that he was .350 plus this year, and hit .300 plus with some serious pop last year) (ed. note- yer in the ballpark- only 20 homers last year vs. righties)  Lind was a great guy to own in a fantasy league which allows for daily lineup changes.  Consistently and predictably, Lind would crush right handed pitching, even more so during Day games.  We'll see if that holds true (especially the latter) in Milwaukee.

2) He hit lefties relatively well during the first half of 2013, but for whatever reason (likely a deep bench in Toronto), he wasn't given the opportunity to hit against lefties this year.  I think his stats ended up with him hitting sub .100 against lefties, but he's not really that bad. (ed. note- he was brutal, batting .061 vs. southpaws with no homers)  

3) He's changed his approach at the plate in the past two seasons.  He's become a very patient hitter, taking a ton of first pitches, and working counts to find balls he can drive to the gaps.  Before that, he was quite the free swinger, albeit with more home runs coming as a bi-product.  It will be interesting to see which approach he favors in Milwaukee. (ed. note- Lind's career year came in 2009, when he hit .305 with 35 HRs, and 114 RBI)

4) For a guy who's hit over 20 homers in at least 4 of his big league seasons, the stats say Lind had a mysterious power outage last year.  He ended up hitting just 6 homers in 300 plus at bats, half of which came in the hitter's paradise of Rodgers Center.  Ouch.  Perhaps that's why he was made available.  It could also be that in Toronto, he's rather redundant, with Edwin Encarnacion locked in at 1B. Plus, guys like Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Juan Francisco, and the recently acquired Justin Smoak are available to DH and do lots of the same things Lind does well.  All that said, Lind's lack of Homers in 2014 isn't really a concern.  He hit a lot of ground rule doubles, and just plain doubles, to the gaps last year.  The stats say if he gets the ball out of the infield, it's likely a hit- he's hitting over .600 on balls hit to the outfield in the past two seasons.  The power is still there, it was just gap and warning track power last year.

Which brings us to some of my concerns over the trade.  It certainly isn't giving up Estrada.  He was a decent player, who has filled several niches for the club over the years.  But after catching a bad case of Gopherballitis this year, he didn't seem to fit in the team's plans going forward as anything more than a long reliever and swing starter.  What concerns me most is that Adam Lind may be a guy who belongs in the American League.  Let's address that, and some other negatives.

1.) Lind only played in 96 games last year, despite serving mainly as the team's DH.  If I recall, the injuries were mainly a chronic back issue, and a fractured foot, which he acquired from a rogue foul ball.  If he's that dinged up while serving primarily as a 30 year old DH, it's not likely he's going to play more games while manning 1B, sporting a few more Wisconsin pounds around the old midsection.  The optimist hopes that he'll keep the back loose and limber while playing the field, instead of the old hot/cold lockup of being a DH.

2.) He's wretched at 1B.  I can't think of anyone with less range than he has.  Prince was bad, and (despite FSN's bullshit on the topic) never really became even an average defender, but after a few seasons, he at least looked the part.  Lind does not look the part.  I was really searching for a joke there, but there really wasn't one to be had.  Comparing him to a 40-year old Derek Jeter or an inanimate object really isn't funny.  Bad defense is not a death knell, as it is first base after all, but it also doesn't stack the deck in Lind's favor.

3.) Lind has played all 8 of his major league seasons for the same team.  That means 8 seasons in the AL.  Insert all the old arguments about a veteran's advantage knowing all the pitchers in your league, especially your division, etc. etc., as well as spending most of his career in a hitter's ballpark.  I'm not terribly concerned with this, as he hit around .400 in interleague games the past two seasons, and he's moving from one hitter's ballpark to another.

4.) The numbers against lefties aren't good, and they are worse than I remember.  Lind has hit .212 lifetime against lefties.  Worse than that, his OPS clocks in around .588.  That's not useful, not even for a middle infielder, let alone a first baseman.  So, he's going to be a platoon player.  Fortunately, starting pitching in the NL Central is heavy on righthanders, so this, combined with smart teams placing more value on splits and platoons, may not hurt Lind's value as a Brewer. (ed. note- Are the Brewers a smart team?) 

Well, a few beers later, I realize I'm probably nitpicking Adam Lind's negatives, in order to balance the ledger.   This is a good trade- at the very least a good roll of the dice.  Lest we forget the dynamic duo of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds who platooned at first base last year. They each held their own defensively, but their lack of pop and consistency killed us down the stretch.  To be sure, 100 games out of Lind (and let's say a platoon w/ Lucroy) is better than what we had in 2014.  I just wanted to make sure my admiration for Adam Lind the person/fantasy commodity wasn't clouding my judgement of Adam Lind the player.
As a fan, I really do enjoy watching Lind work a count and swing the bat.  He's got an effortless power stroke (ed.note- lifetime .860 OPS vs. righties).  It will be no small joy to watch him in a Brewer uniform, as long as he's not sitting on the bench with yet another back injury.  For the record, I hope we bring back Reynolds as a backup for both Lind and Ramirez.  Mark is solid defensively at either position, and will get more than his share of at bats in a first base platoon, as well as in late innings, not to mention full time duty when Lind and Ramirez take their customary DL stints.

For posterity's sake, let's throw out some hypothetical numbers which would constitute a successful season for "the Ginger" in 2015.

Games- 100
Average- .275
HRs- 20
RBI- 75
OBP- .350    
SLG- .450
OPS- .800

I keep trying to manufacture a comp for what this trade feels like as a fan of both Lind and the Brewers.  Nothing really rings the bell clear and true, but let's go for the oddball that keeps popping to mind:  Xavier McDaniel.  In his prime.  In a decent year for the Bucks.  The X-Man was a uniquely talented offensive player, and probably a much better fantasy than real life commodity, but damn if he wasn't fun to watch.  You know what, screw the comp.  As with most things, I suppose it's best not to over analyze it, but rather to thank Doug Melvin's moustache and enjoy the ride instead.

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