21 May 2014

Hardy, Health, and Homers

You're likely aware that J.J. Hardy has not hit a home run yet. In the last three seasons (all with Baltimore), Hardy has hit a combined 77 home runs. But in 138 plate appearances so far, he has yet to homer.

But Hardy isn't alone. Nine other qualified major leaguers have a HR/FB rate of zero. Here they are, ranked by their 2014 fly ball percentages:

J.J. Hardy43.4
Nate Schierholtz41.7
Jackie Bradley Jr.32.1
Denard Span29.1
Martin Prado25.2
Adeiny Hechavarria23.4
Emilio Bonifacio18.9
DJ LeMahieu18.7
Norichika Aoki18.1
Ben Revere11.1

Most of those players are certainly not home run threats. And sure, it's still May. But it's odd to see Hardy's name on that list, especially when, with 158 career home runs, he has only 20 fewer home runs than the rest of those players combined (178).

Right now, Hardy has a batting line of .271/.287/.333 (.272 wOBA) -- which isn't pretty. The average MLB shortstop is batting .246/.308/.372 (.302 wOBA). His numbers are a lot closer to the 2012 Hardy (.290 wOBA) than the 2011 (.344 wOBA) or 2013 (.322 wOBA) versions.

It's worth wondering if Hardy's completely healthy. He missed some games in April due to back spasms and a hamstring injury, though he appears to be OK now. Defensively, he has still been solid. But he just hasn't been the same at the plate, in terms of walking (2.9 BB%), getting on base overall, and hitting for power (.062 ISO). Maybe he's just on a bad hitting stretch, though. It wouldn't be the first time.

Even if Hardy isn't 100 percent, it's still only a matter of time before he hits that first home run. But Hardy, who's a free agent after this season, does turn 32 in August, and injuries have plagued him throughout his career. He's been relatively healthy in his time in Baltimore, but at some point his power numbers are going to dissipate. That may not be in 2014, or even the season or two after that. But even though Hardy's still a valuable commodity because of his strong defense at shortstop, he's a much different player when he's adding that home run power to his defensive skills.

Stats, via FanGraphs, as of May 20, 2014.

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