Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hardy will be back next year

In last night’s 10-3 routing over the wayward Kansas City Royals, the Twins had limelight contributions from key players like Delmon Young and yet (another) epic blast by Jim Thome. Perhaps overshadowed by the two sluggers were the three RBIs provided off the bat of shortstop J.J. Hardy.

To be frank, Hardy’s first season as a Twin has been one that has been all kinds of enigmatic.

When the Twins received Hardy, they acquired a downgraded product. Hardy’s swing was a hot mess and he was shipped to AAA in the Brewers organization to work on his approach in 2009. Convinced they could attend to Hardy’s mechanical needs, the Twins were willing to take on the challenge of rebuilding what was once an elite shortstop. The implemented changes are very apparent but the actual results have been very much connected to his health in what has been a segmented season.

In his first segment, from the beginning of the season until May 4, Hardy demonstrating little in the way of on-base abilities but managed to drop a few bombs and collect several doubles on his way to a .250/.299/.400 start. A bruised hand, gained when Hardy was sliding into third in Detroit, sidelined the shortstop of a portion of time in the early going and potentially stymied his progress with the new mechanics.

After the breather, Hardy came back at the end of May only to figure out that his wrist was still not yet 100%. In those 40 plate appearances, Hardy recorded just five hits and one extra base hit (a double). Concerns over the wrist landed him on the disabled list for the second time in the season.

Unlike his initial stint on the DL, Hardy was given the opportunity to heal (along with a refreshing cortisone shot), and his return during the Fourth of July weekend proved to be the jumpstart he needed to make everything click at the plate. Since his July 3 return, Hardy has batted .303/.353/.428 with a pair of home runs and 11 doubles in 172 plate appearances.

Hardy’s truncated season can be viewed in a myriad of ways. If you are looking at the sum, obviously the numbers are disappointing. His overall .262/.312/.383 batting line is a far cry from the anticipated return to his pre-2009 form. At the same time, when you consider the advancements the 27-year-old has made adapting to refurbished mechanics as well as battling through injuries, Hardy’s season is much more reassuring that he can be an above average offensive contributor out of a historically defensive-oriented position.

J.J. Hardy’s Split Season

First Half
Second Half

Above all, Hardy’s first-half of the season presumably lowers his earnings potential that he could have achieved had he posted numbers similar to his second-half throughout the duration of the season. While he might make upwards of $6 million in 2011, it may prove to be a solid value. No doubt, the Twins will have J.J. Hardy at short again next season, even with the opportunity to non-tender him and skim some off the future payroll.