Entering the 2016 seasons I fully expected Francisco Lindor to have a sophomore slump. He was so bad against breaking balls during his rookie year that it seemed impossible to imagine a scenario in which American League pitchers didn’t adjust to his weakness and bring him back down to earth.
But the exact opposite happened.
Lindor started crushing breaking balls—not just at an improved rate, but at the rate of an All-Star caliber hitter. I quickly adjusted my expectations and assumed: if Lindor can turn a weakness into a strength this quickly, there’s no limit to what he can become as a hitter.
But then Lindor proved me wrong again.
The decline began around July, then he dropped significantly further in September and then he crashed in October, hitting just .077 against breaking balls in the playoffs.
So entering the 2017 season, I didn’t really know what to expect. He had shown some good and bad, but at such extreme rates that it was hard to know what was believable. Now, more than halfway through the 2017 season, I think we’re starting to see the real Lindor—and it’s a little discouraging.
Lindor’s issues with breaking balls are more pronounced from the left side of the plate (against right-handed pitchers) so I’ll focus on those numbers for the rest of this article. Here’s how he’s fared as a lefty against breaking balls in his career, broken into three chapters:
The middle chapter is a large enough sample size to make me think he has potential to improve—a .306 average against breaking balls is just too impressive for a five-month stretch to be a complete fluke. But it’s also hard to ignore the much larger sample size from the rest of his career.
When looking at his heat map from 2017, it’s painfully obvious where the hole is in Lindor’s swing:
And unfortunately, there’s little reason to suspect bad luck has played a role in the outcome of these plate appearances. Among the Indians everyday players, only Bradley Zimmer has a lower exit velocity against breaking balls from righties.
As an outsider it’s hard to say why this remains an issue for Lindor or what he can do to improve. Only Lindor and the coaching staff can really provide insight into how his approach at the plate or the mechanics of the swing could be impacting his ability to handle breaking balls. But clearly something isn’t clicking and it’s an issue that he’ll need to address before his career progresses to the next level.