J.J. Hardy is having a bad season. He’s striking out too much, he looks slow, and his power got left behind in 2013, along with the Harlem Shake. In a story about bad timing, Hardy’s rough year comes just months after the Baltimore Orioles locked him up until at least 2017 with a $40 million contract.
He’s just as popular in Baltimore as Joe Flacco — fans love him. But should they be worried? Is this just a long injury-ridden season, or is this the beginning of the end for the 33-year-old Hardy?
Call to the Pen
The statistics are uninspiring. This year, J.J. has accumulated career low numbers in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, strikeout percentage, walk percentage, and WAR.
So almost everything. His .212/.244/.302 line is nauseating.
But something encouraging comes from these stats: Hardy’s numbers look less like someone getting old and more like a guy who is either hurt, or just in the middle of a VERY tough slump.
Look at the K and BB%. As players age and spend more time in the league, while they may lose some bat speed, they almost always improve their plate discipline. J.J.’s strikeout percentage of 20% and walk percentage of 4.4% are his worst ever — and kind of by a lot.
Is he not seeing the ball correctly? Is he, perhaps, adjusting his swing to avoid aggravating an ailing injury?
The second question is interesting. Take a look at this statistic: in J.J. Hardy’s 10-year career, not once has he hit more ground balls than fly balls. In fact, not once with the Baltimore Orioles has his GB/FB ratio even been higher than .84.
His GB/FB ratio this year? 1.09. This has never happened before. Why would someone who has been playing in the league for a decade, all the sudden have a tendency to hit the ball differently? Has Hardy been swinging differently as a result of his early-season shoulder injury?
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While his work with a bat his hurt the team, J.J. Hardy is still the defensive leader of one of the best defenses in baseball. Has his range gone down a little bit? Sure. But just a little bit.
For a 33-year old playing the toughest defensive position in the sport, Hardy has looked exceptional. He makes plays going either way, turns two with the best of ’em, and lays down one of the best tags in baseball.
In 102 games, he’s only made 3 errors. He really could win another Gold Glove this year.
I don’t think J.J. Hardy is done. While I don’t know exactly what is wrong with him, I do believe he still has something left in the tank. Should we expect another 30 home run season from him? Probably not. But a productive 6 hitter who can occasionally hit for extra bases? Absolutely.
I believe it’s in there somewhere. It just might take this whole 2016 offseason to find it.