In the next couple of weeks as the Orioles’ season winds down, I will be going back and looking at some players from the 2012-2016 era and breaking down their contributions. Today’s player: J.J. Hardy.
On December 9, 2010, the Orioles traded Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson to the Minnesota Twins for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris. This turned out to be one of the better trades the Orioles have made in franchise history, in my opinion. Not only did the Orioles give up little to nothing for Hardy, he turned around and gave them the best years of his career.
Hardy was never the most flashy hitter while with the Orioles (.252/.293/.398 in Baltimore) but even he was able to put together three consecutive years of 20 or more home runs from 2011-2013. In 2013, he was rewarded for his solid offensive season by winning the Silver Slugger Award, the third ever Oriole to win the award along with Cal Ripken, Jr., who was an eight time winner, and Miguel Tejada, a two time winner.
However, Hardy was known more for his defense than anything else. The winner of three gold gloves, Hardy never finished with negative DRS in his Orioles career and only finished with a negative UZR once: 2017, his last season.
I watched this play when it happened and I still cannot believe he made it. While rarely flashy like that, Hardy was always consistent with the glove. Hardy has the third most innings as a shortstop in franchise history, he is tied for first in fielding percentage (.987), third in assists, fourth in putouts, and third in double plays. As for advanced stats, Hardy leads in both UZR and DRS with his closest competition being Cesar Izturis, min. 1000 innings.
(Players like Mark Belanger and Cal Ripken, Jr. are not factored into the advanced defensive metrics because they are newer stats.)
For all intents and purposes, J.J. Hardy was this generation’s Mark Belanger; just with more power. Hardy definitely deserves to be recognized along with some of the other Orioles’ great shortstops, if not for his defense alone.
J.J. was a major building block for the exciting teams we saw from 2012-2016. He played in every postseason game for the Orioles in that era and up until 2015, when injuries started to slow him down, he was an everyday player for this team.
He was certainly one of my favorite players during this time period and will continue to be a player I always go back and watch highlights of. May the chants of “J-J-HARDY!” live forever.