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J.J. Hardy: top NL shortstop?

What a coincidence!  The same day I post a long article on players with bad BABIP luck, Rich Lederer discusses the very same issue with regard to JJ Hardy:

His Batting Average on Balls In Play was a meager .211 (vs. a MLB norm of about .300). Give him a more normal BABIP and he would have hit .262 before the All-Star game rather than .187. ...

For the year as a whole, Hardy had a BABIP of .263. Recognizing that the type of batted ball can influence BABIP, it is important to note that Hardy's outcomes (33% groundball, 22% outfield fly, 5% infield fly, 15% line drive, and 3% bunt, according to The Hardball Times Annual) were almost identical to the major league averages. Accordingly, I feel comfortable suggesting that Hardy should have come closer to hitting .277 than .247 for the year.

A solid defensive shortstop hitting .277 with some don't need me to tell you how valuable that is.  The difference between Hardy's BABIP and his "shoulda been" BABIP is enough to put him on my list of the top underperformers, but as he didn't have a career average to compare his '05 stats with, he wasn't included in the study.

Looking ahead, Lederer should make Brewers Nation (is there a "Brewers Nation?") quite hopeful:

Longer term, Hardy profiles a bit like Chris Speier. He has a similar body type with medium speed, a good knowledge of the strike zone, and above-average power for a SS. Speier had better range than Hardy showed in his rookie year but was eventually hampered by a bad back despite enjoying a 19-year career in the majors. For what it's worth, the former Giant was one of the best players in the league during his second season.

Look for Hardy to avoid the sophomore slump and put up a Bobby Crosby-like .280/.350/.460 line. If so, he could emerge as perhaps the #1 or #2 shortstop in the NL in 2006.

If Hardy can do this, and he slots in as the #2 hitter, pushing Weeks down to #6, our 1-6 could be a tremendous balanced attack.  There obviously won't be a Pujols-like masher in the middle, but with solid years from Clark-Hardy-Jenkins-Lee-Fielder-Weeks, we'll wear out a whole lot of NL pitchers.