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