Hardy Under the Radar

The Twins have plenty of quality players who will get their due attention as the American League Divison Series unfolds. I suspect that J.J. Hardy might not be one of those players, and he most certainly hasn’t received the credit he is due for his performance on the field this season.

A large part of this is probably due to a slow start. Hardy posted OBPs below .290 in both April and May and missed large chunks of both May and June, playing only a combined 15 games in those two months. Hardy hit his stride in the second half of the season, however, posting a .304/.363/.429 line over the last three months. Overall, Hardy hit .268/.320/.393, eerily similar to his career line of .263/.323/.423 – the 30 point difference in slugging percentage can be easily explained by the cavernous Target Field. Hardy’s wRC+ this season ended at 96 against a career average of 98.

Hardy’s 96 wRC+ actually comes within 3 points of all the other American League leaders at SS (Cliff Pennington, Derek Jeter, Marco Scutaro, and Alexei Ramirez all fall between 95 and 99) besides Alex Gonzalez, whose numbers trailed off quite a bit after a trade to the Atlanta Braves. Although Hardy can hit a little, the majority of his value comes from his stellar defense at this premium position.

The scouting report from Brewerfan.net nails it on Hardy’s defense.

J.J. has excellent range at shortstop, more due to pure instinct than quick feet. He puts away virtually everything he gets to, and has a strong and accurate arm. His defense would have played in the majors the day he was drafted.

The fantastic range is why Hardy is rated highly by every defensive metric available today. Over about 4.5 full seasons, UZR rates Hardy as a +41 SS, DRS rates him as +38, and TotalZone rates him at +23. Regardless of which one you choose, Hardy has provided fantastic value as a solid glove shortstop, and both the scouting reports and the eye test back that up.

Hardy might not have been as good as his +8 UZR suggests in such a small sample, but the fact that he put up 1.6 WAR in 375 plate appearances before factoring in defense is enough to merit a look. Throw in the fact that a +8 UZR in that sample is legitimately attainable for somebody with Hardy’s defensive prowess, and you have a shortstop that could arguably be the best remaining in the playoffs.



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Justin smoak teh 6org prospect
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Justin smoak teh 6org prospect
5 years 8 months ago

Under the radar, really? More like the radar pjled him up and decided it wasn’t worth reporting.

adohaj
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adohaj
5 years 8 months ago

nice name

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
5 years 8 months ago

“and you have a shortstop that could arguably be the best remaining in the playoffs.”

I read this and instantly thought it was ludicrous. Then I thought about it a while and its not as crazy as it seams. He put up the same war as jeter but with about half the PA.

Erik
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

And much better defense…which is kind of the point of this article.

OmarStrollin
Member
OmarStrollin
5 years 8 months ago

I think the talk to non-tender Hardy is crazy. A defensive shortstop as solid as he is with that kind of offensive upside has to be held onto. He’s probably not going to be a 25 HR bat playing as a right-handed hitter in Target Field, and that’s fine, but he can certainly find the gaps there, hit to all fields, and hit for occasional power there with decent power on the road in more hitter-friendly parks.

Having seen every game this year, it’s amazing how many line drives/deep flies to left come JUST short of home runs, either hitting off the top of the wall or being caught against the wall. Hardy has been a major victim of this. His HR totals won’t ever stack up to his Milwaukee days while he’s in Minnesota, but his defense holds true, and adding in 10-15 HR on top of that and posting a wOBA in the .325-.335 range is certainly attainable and worth keeping around.

It’s odd to think of Hardy as superior to Rollins and Jeter, but this season, that may very well be the case (Twins fans should be happy it’s even debatable), and I think he’ll be able to improve upon this year going forward.

cowdisciple
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cowdisciple
5 years 8 months ago

Does Hardy really have great range, or do the systems just think he does because he has such a cannon that he can play much deeper in the hole than other shortstops? That’s been my impression from watching him. He really isn’t all that quick. Either way, the result is that he gets to a ton of balls.

Ian
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Ian
5 years 8 months ago

That’s a good question. He’s clearly not fast but maybe his arm lets him play a touch deeper. But he also doesn’t seem to have much trouble getting balls on the grass, so I don’t know the answer. But it is an interesting idea.

Erik
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5 years 8 months ago

Defense at SS isn’t all about being ‘fast.’ You have to have good instincts, which is something Jack points out in Hardy having – and as a Twins fan, I can vouch for that as well.

TFINY
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TFINY
5 years 8 months ago

Does it really matter if he has great range, or if his arm is strong enough that he can get to all of the balls anyway and we just think he does?

By the way, that is a serious question.

Jon
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Jon
5 years 8 months ago

TFINY:

Yes, there’s a difference. A SS with good range can compensate somewhat as he ages by moving to 2B to account for somewhat diminished foot speed/instincts. While the strong armed-SS is a good thing to have, the arm only helps if you can actually get to a ball. If the guy becomes a statue, all the arm strength in the world doesn’t help any more.

AK707
Member
AK707
5 years 8 months ago

Isn’t that a excellent 3B waiting to happen? Especially if he is getting good first steps.

Anon
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Anon
5 years 8 months ago

Not if he hits like a middle infielder.

R M
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R M
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit on offense. His career line is severely depressed by his 2009 campaign. Sure, it happened, but given how short his career has been thus far I don’t think we should really give it too much weight. If you take out 2009, his career WRC+ is 103. Maybe it’s nit picking, but it seems reasonable to expect a little bit of improvement going forward.

dustygator
Guest
dustygator
5 years 8 months ago

No talk about Juan Uribe? Yeah he probably played more 2B and 3B during the season but he put up 3.1 WAR in 575 PA. He’ll probably play at SS in the playoffs with Sanchez and 2B and Panda at 3B.

Cliff Lee's Changeup
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Cliff Lee's Changeup
5 years 8 months ago

Hardy is surely unloved, and it is no doubt due to his prowess on defense as opposed to offense. But I think it takes a bit off gall to call him the best post-season short stop and base that largely on defensive numbers. He is consistently strong with the glove, but the nature of defensive metrics I think limits their ability to give you a clear cut superior player the way advanced stats like OPS+ or wOBA do. If I could take any of the 8 short stops here, I would still take Jeter. Someone needs to wrestle the crown from him, and a bad season with a deflated BABIP just isn’t enough, yet.

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