Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Rise of One, The Fall of Another

Adam Lind and Vernon Wells
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
2009 was a year of wonder and great promise for Blue Jays fans alike. This is due to the fact that despite finishing 20 games out of the AL East lead with a 75-85 record three things happened that gave us Jays fans hope for the future. The first being that the surprisingly long tenure of J.P. Ricciardi was finally terminated; leaving the prodigy himself Alex Anthpolous to lead us to his dynasty. The second being that our 2006 1st round pick Ricky Romero was called up, and comprised a 13-9 record with a 4.03 ERA in the majors. Finally and most importantly was the emergence of what seemed like two fantastic players, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Both players were in the prime of their careers, both had over 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs and a better than .280 average that year and both players were even in MVP consideration for that 2009 season. These two players, Hill and Lind looked like they would be strong components of the Blue Jays teams for years to come.

Once 2010 came around everything changed. Both Lind and Hill's home run totals dropped by at least 10 homers, their ISOs  by more than 20, and their RBI totals by more than 40. Despite the major decreases in the power categories, power wasn't even the big issue. The issue was instead their  batting averages, which dropped by 70 points a piece. Based on the breakouts from these two players, there was definitely some expected regression from the their 2009 numbers but all of these stats dropping and a net WAR decrease of 6.9 between Lind and Hill is ridiculous. It isn't like Lind and Hill were some Bautista like figures who were presumably out of their prime, but somehow popped onto the MLB scene. Both were highly touted prospects and Hill had a similarly good season two years prior to the 2009 breakout. This fact that these two guys were known commodities gave some confidence to fans and the Blue Jays Front Office that Hill and Lind would return to prior form. In fact the front office had enough confidence in Lind to give him an extension at 4 years and $18 million. At the time at least to me it seemed like a lot to commit to a guy who just finished hitting .230, but the Jays obviously still believed in him and with extending him at that time they got him for a steal

Looking at both Hill and Lind's 2011 numbers you can see that the Jays were definitely right in locking up Lind early, but unfortunately we have also had to witness the lowest of the low for the once great player Aaron Hill. It really is quite unfortunate to see such a great player fall so far. I remember being at his very first game and seeing his first at bat. The pitcher had just intentionally walked Russ Adams to load up the bases and to put all the pressure on the rookie. Hill responded by hitting a bases clearing triple with a ball that just flew over the center fielders glove. Having seen him from the start makes it so much harder to see him playing this way. With only 4 home runs so far this year and a sub .250 average, Hill is doing bad and isn't showing signs of getting better, which is definitely going to make it a tough decision to pick up his options at the end of the year.

As for Lind I along with many other Jays fans are overjoyed to see him excelling at the level he is. Especially after having him sign that long term deal that I was skeptical of at first, but seeing him back to and possibly better than his 2009 self is great. At the rate he is going he should be able to beat out his 2009 35 home run total and his 114 RBI total, despite missing a significant amount of time on the DL earlier this season. Plus he is still holding a .310 batting average, which is 5 points higher than his 2009 number. Furthermore he is still only 27 and we have him under contract for another 2 years, plus three more option years at a fairly discounted price if this production is to continue.

Throughout the past 3 years the performances of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have been a little iffy, with Lind being good then bad then great and Hill being great then bad then worse. Though back in 2009 we saw that both of these guys can be All-Star players, we have seen Lind recapture that glory and I would hope that Hill can pull it together. In my opinion I would like to see Hill traded, but I don't believe that it really a possibility with the lack of free agent second-basemen this offseason.

Because of this the Jays will most likely accept Hill's 2012 option, but if the sub-par play continues then I could see the Jays turning down his 2013 option with Phillips in the free agent class that year and with Hechavarria possibly pushing to make the Jays squad. Overall it is interesting to see the polar opposite paths that these two players, Adam Lind and Aaron Hil, have taken over the past three years. In 2009 both were great, in 2010 neither could recreate. In 2011 the former Lind has returned, but as for Hill he has left us concerned.

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