Digging Deeper into JJ Hardy’s Defensive Performance

Baltimore Orioles shortstop, JJ Hardy, is one the top defensive shortstops in Major League Baseball. However, despite finishing 2013 statistically among the top five shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved (estimated number of runs saved by player for his team), he is widely considered on the second tier of shortstops in the game. Hardy is often regarded by critics as consistent but never flashy, solid but not in the elite company of Andrelton Simmons or Troy Tulowitzki.

Hardy has been as consistent and steady as any shortstop in the game, finishing the last three seasons in the top ten in Defensive Runs Saved. When looking closer at defensive play, specifically the good fielding plays (GFPs) that Hardy made during the 2013 season, a signature skill pops out of the data. Hardy made an exceptionally quick pivot around second base to turn a double play 11 times in 2013. In fact, of the top ten shortstops according to Defensive Runs Saved, only Troy Tulowitzki and Andrelton Simmons came within three Good Fielding Plays of Hardy’s total with eight and seven, respectively.

Shortstop

2013 Quick Double Play Pivots among SS

JJ Hardy

11

Troy   Tulowitzki

8

Andrelton   Simmons

7

Pete Kozma

5

Nick Punto

3

Pedro   Florimon

3

Brendan Ryan

1

Cliff Pennington

1

Clint Barmes

0

Ramon Santiago

0

Last season, Hardy made more exceptional quick pivots to turn double plays than any middle infielder in the league. Former Yankee and now Seattle Mariner second basemen Robinson Cano led the league in exceptional quick pivots to turn double plays in 2011 and 2012 and finished second in 2013 behind only Hardy. Cano, known for his extraordinarily quick hands and smooth footwork, has had a remarkable three-year run posting double-digit totals over the last three seasons. Meanwhile, JJ Hardy improved his total of quick pivots on double plays each season from 2010 through 2013, the final three of which were in Baltimore. This ability to quickly pivot around second base and turn the double play is a repeatable skill that these players have improved and mastered over the last several years.

Quick Double Play Pivots by Year

JJ Hardy

Robinson Cano

2013

11

10

2012

7

10

2011

4

11

2010

2

6

JJ Hardy’s style in the field may not grab him many headlines or make many highlight reels, but his style is supremely effective. While even he will not toot his own horn about his defensive prowess, in an interview with David Laurila of FanGraphs, Hardy described his style, “I’d characterize my style as not having much style. I try to just catch the ball and throw the ball. I don’t try to be flashy. I just try to make every play that I can.” Hardy is making more than his fair share of double plays around second base and has proven to be an elite shortstop in the game.

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