The J.J. Hardy Overreaction

The Brewers optioned J.J. Hardy to Nashville. We don't really know all of the details about this yet, so maybe it's a two-week Rickie Weeks type situation to try to get him on track, but it's pretty rash and definitely an overreaction.

Everything I said back here about Hardy still applies. He's having a down year but not nearly as down as his baseball card numbers suggest, because he has gotten terribly unlucky on balls in play. The league on average drops about 30% of balls in play for a hit, and Hardy was only getting about 25% to fall. Part of the blame goes to him for not hitting the ball as hard as he has in the past, but that's just unsustainable for a hitter. Had they kept him in the majors I would have fully expected him to hit something like his .261/.325/.438 ZiPS rest-of-season projection.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that Hardy is a really valuable player even when he's hitting terribly. He's been worth about 8 runs above an average shortstop this year and his ability to play short gives his value another boost. He's been roughly average this year overall, and that's about 2 wins above a replacement player over the course of the year-- something teams are willing to pay $8 million dollars for. Hardy is not a bad player. In 2007 and 2008 he was easily an all-star caliber player worth between 4 and 5 wins to the Brewers, and even in a down year like this he's far from worthless.

I have no problem with "shaking things up", but I'm a bit concerned about how this will affect Hardy's trade value. I'd like to think teams are able to evaluate a player like Hardy without reading too much into his poor offensive numbers this year, but if sending him to AAA significantly lowers the return the Brewers get for Hardy, then it's a bad decision.

Finally, as much as I like Escobar, there's one problem-- he probably won't be an upgrade over Hardy for the rest of this season. Escobar has a lot more value to the Brewers than Hardy does because of his upside and cost, but for the rest of this year their production is a wash at best and probably favors Hardy. Escobar's MLE is just about the same as Hardy's line in the majors this season, and though I'd bet Escobar would outperform that, I think Hardy would easily beat his line to date as well. Escobar is considered an excellent defender but Hardy is probably in the top 5 in the majors at short and easily is in the top 10. 

Doug Melvin felt the need to shake things up and that's fine, but I'm not so sure this is an upgrade for the rest of the year and now they're burning Escobar's service time while using up the limited time they control Hardy while sticking him in the minors. Not a shrewd use of valuable assets. I'm not fully against sending him down, but I don't really think it's a great idea, either.

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