While the Baltimore Orioles' offense ranks toward the bottom of the AL again this season, no one can blame J.J. Hardy. The 28-year-old shortstop, picked up from the Twins this past offseason for a pair of relievers, is hitting .301/.366/.530. That blows away the collective .260/.316/.373 line that MLB shortstops have posted this season. Hardy is enjoying an offensive resurgence by hammering the high stuff.
First, here's the average in-play slugging percentage for MLB hitters on pitches located in the upper third of the zone:
The overall MLB slugging percentage on high pitches (including balls not put in play) is .378. Now, here's how Hardy is faring against the high stuff:
Hardy's overall slugging percentage on high pitches is .826 in 2011. Only Toronto's Adam Lind has done more damage when a pitcher places one high in the zone. For comparison, Hardy slugged .367 on high pitches last season with Minnesota.
A major reason for Hardy's power surge this year is that he has cut his percentage of ground balls hit, especially on high pitches. Hardy hit a worm-burner 41 percent of the time against high stuff in 2010. This year, he has chopped the ball into the ground on high pitches around 23 percent of the time (the MLB average is about 35 percent).
The free agent deals handed out to Derek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero haven't work out for the O's, and trade acquisition Mark Reynolds has slugged at the plate but stumbled in the field. Hardy, however, has shined in his new digs during his walk year. If Baltimore decides to make him available, expect Hardy to be a hot commodity on the trade market.