The Platoon Advantage: The Toronto Blue Jays And The Adam Lind Problem

By Thom Tsang
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

With the additions of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Melky Cabrera, and reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, surely the Toronto Blue Jays are good to coast into October, right?

Of course not.

There are still months to go before Spring Training begins, and as much as the Blue Jays have done to improve the club’s chances, there’s plenty of time for the rest of league to do the same.

No, I don’t think we could reasonably expect Alex Anthopoulos go to out and pull off a third blockbuster, but there is still plenty that could be done to fix the remaining holes in this Toronto club for 2013 – the most glaring of them, I would think, being the prospect of another season of Adam Lind getting full-time ABs.

I won’t go back into the complete numbers here – they’ve been repeated enough. If you don’t already know that Lind has been one of the very worst-hitting 1B/DH over the last three seasons, I don’t think any numbers will convince you otherwise. What we should be looking at, since the team is stuck with him and his $5 million salary for the time being, are his splits.

See, while Lind has produced poorly at the plate over the last several seasons, it’s largely a product of the very simple fact that he just can’t hit lefties. In 2012, he put up a .202/.250/.303 triple-slash against southpaws, with a wRC+ of just 48. Against righties? .276/.339/.457, 116 wRC+.

Not fantastic, and nothing close to the breakout numbers he put up in 2009, but…the team could do worse against RHP, right? The discrepancy in the splits are even more apparent when you extend that to his career numbers:  aside from the .607 and .836 OPS against LHP and RHP (respectively), Lind also strikes out considerably more often (24.9% v. LHP, 17.4% v. RHP), and draws fewer walks (5.2% v. LHP, 7.3% v. RHP).

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if Lind is going to get playing time in 2013 – and it looks like he will as long as he’s on the roster – the least the Blue Jays could do is not send him up against lefties.

So what’s with Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons suggesting that Lind will start the season with full-time at-bats against both RHP and LHP? Are they out of their minds?

Nah. In fact, I imagine that Anthopoulos is only saying that to not publicly destroy any perceived value that Lind has in a potential trade. Although there aren’t exactly a ton of specialist sluggers against LHP remaining on the open market, Anthopoulos’ likely next significant move would be to at least find a platoon partner for Lind in 2013; it would not be a surprise to see another trade for this purpose.

That said, if he happens to be unsuccessful with the outside acquisition, Anthopoulos also wouldn’t have to look very far to find an adequate platoon partner for Lind from within the Blue Jays. His name? Rajai Davis.

The reason why Davis couldn’t be given a full-time job in the outfield in 2012 is because he has the opposite problem to Lind – he has poor numbers against righties. Against LHP on the other hand, Davis is, like Lind, surprisingly adequate: .290/.349/.417 triple-slash over 754 PA in his career.

Pair that up with Lind’s numbers against RHP, and you have a hitting duo who could put up a .766 OPS against lefties, and .836 OPS against righties. Sure, the team could probably do better (Michael Morse is available, right?); but while both Davis and Lind are inadequate pieces individually, the Blue Jays could definitely do a whole lot worse than to put their strengths together.

Gibbons is no stranger to employing platoons, and I doubt he would overlook the advantage that Toronto would get by using an in-house one in 2013.

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