Help Me Aaron Hill & Adam Lind, You’re My Only Hope

by ChrisMelito

2009 was, beyond any doubt, an unparalleled and productive year for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. With Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay not performing to expectations, and Scott Rolen eventually traded to Cincinnati, Hill and Lind were the driving force behind the Toronto offense for the duration of the season. And what a driving force they were, with the following impressive lines:

· Hill: BA .286 / OBP .330 / SLG .499 / OPS .829 / OPS+ 117 / 36 HR / 108 RBI

· Lind: BA .305 / OBP .370 / SLG .562 / OPS .932 / OPS+ 144 / 35 HR / 114 RBI

Adding to this, Hill also was an All-Star selection, Silver Slugger, voted 14th for MVP and won the comeback player of the year award. He also led the league in at-bats and plate appearances. Lind was no slouch on that front, also winning a Silver Slugger, and was voted 15th for MVP. Lind’s offensive numbers surely are more impressive, but his 92 starts at DH and 55 in left field, and Hill’s stellar defensive play, did garner the second baseman a bit more press. This is by no means a comparison with the “who’s more valuable Ortiz the DH or Ramirez the LF” conversation of a few years back, but you get the picture.

With Roy Halladay squarely in a Phillies’ uniform, and few other things to look forward to in the Jays’ bag of tricks, it will likely be Hill and Lind providing the only entertainment for Toronto fans in 2010. The question is, can these two relatively young players repeat their performances from a year back? Or, even better, can Hill and Lind improve and become elite stars in the American League?

Starting with basic statistical analysis, we can take a peak at Bill James’ projections on Fangraphs, with links on their names that you can follow yourselves:

· Hill: The first thing that pops out to me is the significant drop off in power numbers here. Slugging drops by more than 30 points, home runs by almost 45%, a near 30 point drop in OPS. Fangraphs does have his batting average remaining steady, but these projections do not bode well for Hill or the Jays.

· Lind: Lind seems to project for a much better 2010 than Hill. Slugging and OPS will drop significantly, but batting average, home runs, OBP, and RBI will hover around the same marks.

It is perfectly reasonable to assume that 2009 was a stand-out and perhaps non-repeatable season for both Hill and Lind. While there has been some buzz around the MLB concerning these players, it’s not like they’ve been confused with the hype and then significant performance of Ken Griffey Jr. or Derek Jeter.

If I had to make a personal supposition on expected performance for 2010, I would not be quite so “glass half empty” in my analysis. Hill has always seemed the smart hitter, certainly capable of hitting .300+, his inability to get well above .290 notwithstanding. The 30+ home run mark was a pleasant surprise, and likely not to be repeated, but only time will tell. His excellent defensive capability will likely garner him a Gold Glove eventually, and therefore slightly more value than Lind, who is not known as a great man with the glove. Lind, likely to spend time at DH, 1B, and LF in 2010, was certainly one of former J.P. Ricciardi’s more astute draft picks. If Hill can be a smart hitter, Lind could be brilliant, certainly capable of hitting well above .300, though 40 HR, and consistent OPS+ numbers around 140 are likely his ceiling. Coming off of a disappointing 2008, Lind was well back into form in Spring Training 2009, in much better shape, and even better, looking more bulky and athletic.

What’s even more important to both of these players seems to be their approach at the plate. Hill’s 98 strikeouts certainly need work and Lind’s 110 even more so. However, anyone who watched as many Jays’ games as I did in 2007, 2008, and then 2009 could definitely see an improvement in the level of concentration both players exhibited. You can probably chalk this up to having Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace in the dugout, but Hill (27) and Lind (25) are both maturing as men as well. I generally consider myself to be a realist, but I’ll let a bit of optimism creep in here and say that I expect both players’ 2010 numbers to be right around their 2009 numbers, with a delta of no more than 15%.

Every Jays’ fan wants a repeat performance from these two players for 2010; that’s no secret. Regardless of projections from baseball experts and armchair prognosticators alike, their play is unlikely to make a great deal of difference to American League standings. Toronto certainly made waves at the beginning of 2009, but with even fewer tools in the shed for the upcoming season, it’s unlikely they’ll impress in 2010. However, should these players repeat, or even improve on their 2009 contributions, and the Jays actually make strides of improvement for 2011 and beyond, Hill and Lind could be the cornerstones of a spectacular team.

2010 will be a long year, fellow Jays’ fans, but if you do plan on watching the TV work of Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, or listening to Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby on the radio, you’re likely to find any on-field solace in only Aaron Hill and Adam Lind…if at all.

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10 Responses to “Help Me Aaron Hill & Adam Lind, You’re My Only Hope”

  1. brautigan Says:

    Chris:

    Fret not, there is some hope. Toronto has amassed some good young arms and you will probably see them this season. I think even though they lost Halladay, Toronto does have some good young arms down on the farm. Toronto is in much better shape than some franchises, so we will see how they do this year.

  2. Paul Says:

    There is no hope for this season. Hill and Lind are going to probably be the only thing keeping this offense from being the worst in the AL. But that is what the season is going to be about, W-L will be irrelevant. The important part will be how much time and development they can give to the players that will be the future of the team.

    As for the fangraphs projections, i don’t really put a lot of stock in them. The Bill James for Hill looks like it’s just based on radically reducing his number of plate appearances probably because he missed so much time in 2008 with the concussion. If you add another 100 PA to James’ numbers for Hill and think about what the reasonable production might be for those 100PA, Hill’s numbers look a lot better.

    My question to Bill James would be what did he project Jeff Kent’s numbers to be in 1998 after his 1997 season?

  3. Chris Melito Says:

    Paul’s right in that the only important part of the season will be seeing if the kids can get their act together and show us a glimmer of what the future might hold. 2010 will be a train-wreck for the Jays, and not fun to watch, but I may think about some sort of wager system to prognosticate which of the kids will actually be somewhat useful.

    Who’s interested?

  4. hossrex Says:

    Braut: “Toronto is in much better shape than some franchises

    Unfortunately for Toronto, while that might be true… it isn’t a question of who has the best talent, it’s who has the best talent in relation to their division.

    Toronto might be in a better position than someone like San Diego… but San Diego is in an entirely winnable division, while Toronto isn’t.

    In the end… I just think it’s cool that someone wrote an article about a team that doesn’t play in New England.

  5. Paul Says:

    hossrex Says: “Toronto might be in a better position than someone like San Diego… but San Diego is in an entirely winnable division, while Toronto isn’t.”

    It’s a winnable division if the ownership is willing to invest the money to fill out the team when the time is right, or if a team gets lucky with their pitching, ie TBD 2008.

  6. hossrex Says:

    For a fact the Padres have a better shot at making the playoffs than the Blue Jays.

  7. Chris Melito Says:

    Hoss, you can’t really say that’s a FACT, there are far too many unknown variables to consider, but it’s an extremely well-educated guess, and I wouldn’t argue with that supposition at all.

    Can we at least agree they both suck?

  8. hossrex Says:

    Oh, they both suck… ironically… I think Toronto sucks far less. That was my point. Toronto would beat Toronto 7 games out of every 10… but I think San Diego has a better chance of making the playoffs.

    Consider all the wackiness that would happen for Toronto to make the playoffs. It would be the biggest story in the last 10 years of baseball.

    Yet for the Padres to make the playoffs, all that must happen is the Giants continue their ineptitude with the bat, and the Dodgers completely forget how to play baseball (which *WILL* happen this year, as attitudes clash, and the despair over the last two years sets in). The Padres could make the playoffs this year, and I’m not sure it would even be the top sports news in the San Diego Union Tribune.

  9. hossrex Says:

    Hossrex: “Toronto would beat Toronto 7 games out of every 10″

    Errrrr…

    Yeah.

    I’m an idiot.

  10. Paul Says:

    I was just interested in hearing an explanation on how Lind’s slugging and OPS would be dropping “significantly” while his BA, HR’s and OBP would “hover” around the same marks? An amazing decline in doubles?

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