Adam Lind Gives the Washington Nationals Much-Needed Bench Depth
You're only as strong as your weakest link.
Lind saw 430 plate appearances with the Seattle Mariners last season and slashed .239/.286/.431 with a .304 wOBA and 92 wRC+, all of which were below league average except for his slugging percentage. He also posted a -0.6 fWAR, his lowest total since 2010.
It wasn't a great year for the left-handed hitter, but how does Lind help the Nationals with below league average numbers?
The Proof is in the...Power
Despite sharing first base duties with Dae Ho Lee last year, Lind hit 20 home runs -- a total he has reached in three of the last four seasons. Those long balls led to him posting an Isolated Slugging Percentage (ISO) of .192, which is exactly in line with his career mark and well above last season's league average of .162.
Don't just take my word for it, though -- see for yourself.
#Recuerdos2016: Adam Lind demuestra su poder conectando dos jonrones, incluyendo un GRAND SLAM. #LosMarineros pic.twitter.com/UDgJRlzUt1
— Marineros de Seattle (@LosMarineros) December 18, 2016
This two-homer game is evidence of Lind's ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field. His career home run chart confirms this one-game sample, and also suggests he shouldn't lose many taters to the confines of his new ballpark.
All of Adam Lind's HRs since 2008 overlaid at @Nationals Park. pic.twitter.com/5uVkPJADfT
— Daren Willman (@darenw) February 13, 2017
Two Birds, One Stone
In addition to Lind's power, he has the ability to serve two functions for the Nats, with the first being an experienced power bat off the bench. Although he only had 3 hits in 23 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in 2016, Lind owns a .309 batting average, .388 wOBA, 146 wRC+, .921 OPS, and a .233 ISO in 108 career pinch-hit plate opportunities.
It's a tiny sample size when compared to a season's worth of plate appearances, but to put Lind's pinch-hitting numbers in perspective, just six hitters equaled or bettered each of the above stats last season: David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy, Freddie Freeman, and Miguel Cabrera. That company is not too shabby.
Again, this is not to say Lind is even close to on-par with these guys, but he should serve as a significant upgrade to current backup first baseman, Clint Robinson, who posted a .282 wOBA, 71 wRC+, and just a .097 ISO last season.
In addition to being a bench upgrade, Lind also provides the Nationals with some insurance at first base. Ryan Zimmerman has missed 44% of possible games over the last three seasons with various injuries and isn't getting any younger at age 32. Should Zimmerman suffer another injury, Lind will be capable of filling in without the club missing a beat.
Perhaps a more intriguing possibility is if manager Dusty Baker decides to use his new first baseman as part of a platoon. Check out the lefty/righty splits for Zimmerman and Lind for their careers.
Zimmerman doesn't have poor numbers when facing righties, but they improve significantly when facing southpaws, whereas Lind has disastrous stats against lefties and impressive ones versus righties.
It's speculative at this point as to whether Dusty will use a platoon or not, but the numbers are in favor of it, while also giving Zimmerman a chance to stay fresh and avoid injury.
Lind's .239 batting average last season was his worst since 2010 and it's likely due to some bad luck.
His .259 BABIP was a career low despite both his line-drive percentage (20.1%) and hard-hit percentage (36.0%) being above his career averages. This suggests that his BABIP is likely going to creep back towards his career mark of .301, which in turn would also bump his batting average closer to his career .271 mark.
The Nationals probably aren't too concerned with Lind's batting average, though, likely signing him to hit the ball out of the stadium during opportune pinch-hitting appearances and when spelling regulars. Lind can also play the outfield, which could help keep 37-year-old left fielder Jayson Werth fresh.
Regardless, at an investment of $1.5 million, this is a signing that carries virtually no risk with the potential of a decent reward.