Everyone around baseball talks about the strong core group of players that the Baltimore Orioles have and how the team just needs to add some pieces around these guys to become legitimate contenders. Of course that core group of players would entail Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Chris Tillman and JJ Hardy, but Hardy could be the most underrated one of them all.
Hardy has been beloved here in Baltimore since he arrived as he plays the game the Oriole way, he shows up to work, plays hard, hustles, takes pride in his defense and when he knows he has knocked one over the wall he simply puts his head down and begins to run to first base. He is a professional's professional and for those who haven't noticed, Hardy is one of the best all around shortstops in the game.
It may be high praise, but if you look at the numbers, and argument can be made that Hardy is the second best all around shortstop in all of baseball behind only Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies and is the best shortstop in the American League.
In 2013, Hardy finished 8th in batting average among qualifying shortstops with a .263 batting average, but that is the furthest down a list of a major offensive category for Hardy among shortstops, unless you count stolen bases as major. Hardy and Tulowitski shared the Major League lead for home runs by a shortstop in 2013 with 25. Hardy continued on with the success as he ranked third in RBI, 10th in runs scored, seventh in hits, fourth in slugging percentage and fifth in OPS.
There is no denying that he is one of the best offensive shortstops in the game, but what sets him apart from other offensive shortstops is his defensive ability. Hardy is one of those rare guys at the position that are both an offensive and defensive threat.
Hardy currently has the fourth best fielding percentage among shortstops of all time, yes you read that correctly, all time, not just a season. In 2013, he led the AL in innings played at short, was second in assists, third in put outs, and led the AL in doubles plays turned among shortstops.
His defensive prowess granted him his second straight Gold Glove award in 2013, and his offensive seasons in 2013 gave him his first career Silver Slugger award and his overall play also gave him his second career All Star game selection.
Hardy has become an integral part of the Orioles lineup no matter where he is in the batting order, and Baltimore is facing a tough decision over the next 12 months as JJ will be a free agent after the 2014 season. It is possible that the Orioles could look to trade him at the trade deadline if they are not in the playoff race, or try to reach a contract extension to keep him in Baltimore.
No matter what happens at the end of the season with Hardy, the Orioles' fans should, and most do, realize how good of a player Hardy has been for this team.
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