01 November 2013

Making the Orioles a Champion in 2014: Shortstop

This post is part of the Making the Orioles a Champion in 2014 Series.  Below you will find links to the other articles.  We will do our best to make sure the links go live with each new update.
C | 1B | 2B (12) | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | Bench | SP (1, 2) | RHRPLHRP | Conclusion

J.J. Hardy (photo via Keith Allison)

Let’s get right to it.

Looking Back

Similar to last season, it was an extremely rare occurrence if you happened to be watching an Orioles game in 2013 and J.J. Hardy wasn’t playing shortstop.  Hardy appeared in 159 games in 2013, all at the shortstop position. After being considered somewhat injury prone early in his career, he’s been extremely durable since he was acquired form the Minnesota Twins following the 2010 season, landing on the disabled list once for a strained abdomen in 2011.

Not only has Hardy been durable during his time in Baltimore, but he’s also been very productive, especially at a position where not much is expected from an offensive perspective.  Since his arrival in Charm City, he ranks 6th among all shortstops in terms of fWAR, producing 10.3 wins above replacement.  Most shortstops either accrue the majority of their value from either their bat (Jed Lowrie) or their glove (Andrelton Simmons).  However, Hardy is one of the few that will normally provide value with both.

From 2011 through 2013, Hardy’s wOBA with the Orioles has been .344, .290, and .322 (respectively).  Despite the differences in wOBA, Hardy has shown to be fairly consistent offensively.  Hardy basically gives you league average production in terms of batting average and on-base percentage.  What sets him apart from most shortstops is his power.

During his time in Baltimore, Hardy’s slugging percentage has basically determined the amount of offensive value he provides in any given season.  The interesting thing about that is that it can be broken down even further.

As the table shows, his power output in any given season appears to depend solely on the number of home runs he hits (his 77 home runs since 2011 lead all shortstops).  Hardy doesn’t hit many line drives (16.6% in 2013, compared to a league average of 20.9%), so it’s understandable that the number of doubles and triples he hits from year to year doesn’t vary much.  What’s interesting is that the value Hardy provides offensively (which depends on his power, which depend on his home runs) may be mostly due to luck, as his HR/FB% has corresponded well to his power production during his time with the Orioles. 

From this perspective, it appears that Hardy’s ability to be an above average offensive shortstop depends on how many of the fly balls he hits actually go over the fence, and not much else.  

As far as his glovework, Hardy is widely recognized as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, and 2013 was no different.  According to Fangraph’s UZR/150, 2013 was Hardy’s worst year defensively during his time in Baltimore, yet he still managed to post a UZR/150 of 6.1 runs above average while winning his second consecutive gold glove (something Jon touched on yesterday).

J.J. Hardy has a career UZR/150 of 9.9 (the highest of any qualified shortstop since Hardy’s debut in 2005) and has never finished a season with a UZR/50 under 6.  When it comes to consistently great defense at the most important defensive position on the field, it’s difficult to do much better.

Moving Forward

Hardy is currently under contract in 2014 for $7.4 million, a very good price for a shortstop of his caliber.  But as we look ahead to the 2014 season, I personally think the Orioles have a problem at shortstop.  Since that problem is having two outstanding shortstops on their roster, it’s a good one to have.  Of course, the other shortstop I am referring to is Manny Machado, who also happens to play some of the best third base you will ever see.  Even after the move to third base last year, I still believe Machado is the shortstop of the future, with the thought that the shortstop position is where he would produce the most value for the team.

Because of that, I was a strong proponent for exploring the trade market for J.J. Hardy following the 2012 season.  Fast forward to this offseason, and I believe the same thing, but to a lesser extent.  There are a couple of reasons that I would be less inclined to trade Hardy this offseason, one of which deals with Machado’s knee injury.  Since our own Stuart Wallace informed me that Macahdo's knee injury should not affect his ability to play shortstop (especially since he elected to have surgery), his status as the shortstop of the future does not appear to be in jeopardy.  However, since he is expected to miss the first month of the season, trading Hardy this offseason means Baltimore would need to fill 3 infield positions at the beginning of 2014 rather than 2.  The Orioles budget for next year is not expected to grow much, meaning at least 2 out of 3 of those positions would be occupied by replacement players, which is something the Orioles probably shouldn’t do if they plan on contending in 2014.

Having said that, Dan Duquette would be foolish not to listen to offers for Hardy this offseason.   It would be bold for Duquette to trade Hardy now considering the circumstances, but if he received a strong offer, I believe he’d have to give it some serious thought.


While the Baltimore Orioles should listen to trade offers for J.J. Hardy during the offseason, he ultimately has more value to the Orioles in 2014 than any other team, and his name should be penciled into the lineup as the team’s starting shortstop.  It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Hardy will provide the 2014 Orioles with league average hitting and on-base skills, combined with above average power and gold glove caliber defense.  That is, as long as his HR/FB% stays above 12%.

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