Baltimore Orioles: The Offensive Woes of J.J. Hardy


May 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) slides into third base during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get into some thoughts and analysis of Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy and his recent offensive difficulties, let me set that up by giving a personal illustration.

I’m an old guy, as sportswriters go — age 60. And though I blame bad genetics more than my marathon-running younger life for my arthritic knee, frankly, the only running I do these days is from the orthopedic surgeon who wants to replace it. Gross! So, I limp around a bit.

Sometimes the knee does not hurt practically at all. And I make a mental note of how it is a good day and it is great to be able to walk without pain. I have several times had the experience of walking into a building while thinking to myself, “You’re walking well today — no limp at all” … only to have the first person I see say to me, “So what are you limping about?”

To me (and to many other O’s fans I’ve read on comment boards), it pretty much always looks like J.J. Hardy is hurting. We know he has a bad back that has afflicted him at times. And frequently when running out a ground ball, he decelerates beyond the bag in a way that looks like he is attempting to alleviate pangs of pain shooting through his spinal column. He is also frequently seen stretching and twisting — sorta checking out that muscle he just tweaked a moment ago.

But, maybe this is just normal for Hardy. Maybe on his best day he simply has a running style and physical presence that gives a false appearance that not everything is well inside his age 33 (on Wednesday) body.

Adding to this illusion (or appearance) are certain times where he seems to go into a hitting funk … like, right now, for example. Hardy did have a 15-game hitting streak from July 17th through August 1st where he hit .291.  But for the month of August (13 games) he is just 8-for-51 — seven singles and a double with one run scored and one RBI. And in the last eight games he is just 2-for-30.

Here are his stats month by month for 2015 …


Also adding to the concern is the knowledge of certain injury proclivities — both from last year and from spring training. Hardy did not begin the season with the O’s this year until May 7th.

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But even when the basic set of statistics for Hardy is less than stellar, he does bring several strengths that are not as numerically obvious. Of course, he is among the very best of defensive shortstops and contributes to the team by preventing run-scoring situations for the opposition. He has only three errors in 86 games. As well, over the past couple years, Hardy has delivered well in clutch situations — among the very best. However, this stat has also seen some erosion of late and is now down to .282.

The Orioles could give him a break and let Flaherty play some games, but that would be turning to a player who is 0-for-34 since his last hit on July 24th. And in fact, the O’s are 48-38 when he plays.

And actually, I’m not calling for any necessary action to be taken, other than definitely keeping him well down the batting order. There just is the concern that Hardy is playing through injuries to the extent that it is affecting him terribly. Buck always talks about how everyone is playing with some sort of nagging issue.

Actually, I would make one observation that seems to me to be an obvious batting adjustment that could be made. I would like to see Hardy move up on the plate a bit closer. He is often lunging to cover the outside of the plate, and teams pitch him there with low, breaking balls in particular. With his open stance, though this might invite getting busted up and in, he would be better positioned to turn on such pitches and pull them down the line. As it is, he is hitting far too many ground balls that he “turns over” and results in one out, if not two.

But, I’m just an old dude with a bad knee, but the eyes are still good. And Hardy will likely turn this around again as he has many other times in his career. But the eyes tell me now that not all is well physically with the O’s shortstop and that the numbers are reflecting this.

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