J.J. Hardy has suffered through the worst season of his career at the plate, and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reveals the probable reason for those struggles. Hardy said today that he has a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder that has hindered him at the plate all season.
Hardy opened the year on the disabled list due to what the team termed a left shoulder sprain, but Hardy has known all along that there’s actually a tear in the shoulder’s labrum. Asked about the possibility of offseason surgery to repair the issue, however, Hardy somewhat surprisingly said he will not correct the injury surgically. Rather, his plan is to rest the shoulder and then strengthen it. As Hardy explained, he’s gone through the process to repair a labral tear in his shoulder once previously (as a minor leaguer in 2004) and he doesn’t wish to repeat that difficult recovery process.
A renowned defensive shortstop, Hardy has, by all accounts, put together another sterling defensive campaign. As Encina notes, he’s made only three errors this season, and defensive metrics such as UZR/150 (+12.6 runs) and Defensive Runs Saved (+6) again praise Hardy’s glovework as considerably above average.
It’s the results at the plate that are a concern for Hardy and the Orioles, as the 33-year-old delivered just a .213/.246/.306 batting line and eight homers in the first season of a three-year, $40MM contract extension signed about one year ago. Per Encina, Hardy added that if the issue lingers into 2016, it’ll impact how long he envisions himself playing. He also missed time with a groin strain and a minor oblique issue this season and has dealt with a lengthy list of injuries over the course of his career.
Hardy’s struggles were just one of many factors in a disappointing season for the Orioles. The team’s rotation didn’t perform anywhere near expectation, and the club was left reeling from the losses of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, as replacement options offered little in terms of offensive output. Matt Wieters spent a significant portion of the season on the DL and didn’t hit well upon activation, and Steve Pearce was unable to replicate his 2014 breakout. Wieters and Pearce will be joined by key contributors Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day in free agency, further clouding the future outlook for Baltimore.