When the Twins acquired JJ Hardy for Carlos Gomez, they assumed a product in Hardy who had offensive potential but was in need of repair. Baseball-Intellect.com's Alex Eisenberg documented this mechanical digression over the past several seasons. Essentially, Hardy attempted to make adjustments in 2009, beginning to bar his arm out in a more pronounced fashion (keeping his front arm straight instead of bending at the elbow) in addition to a very time-consuming leg-kick (lifting his leg, back in with a tap, then forward again). Visual evidence of this swing is seen below:
His numbers dropped substantially across the board. His wOBA dropped from .355 to .292. Holes in his swing were prevalent. This longer swing kept the shortstop from turning on pitches with much authority. In 2008, Hardy turned on 58% of pitches thrown inside, pulling them to left field with power (.969 slugging). A year later, he was yanking only 49% of inside pitches with a significant decrease in his power capabilities (.526 slugging).
|Hardy Pitched Inside:|
Slugging Pct On Pitches Pulled
You can see from the animation above that Hardy's tardy swing forces him to fight off the fastball inside instead of turning on it.
When the Twins acquired him, they realized there were corrections that needed to be made. According to assistant GM Rob Antony the Twins had Joe Vavra dig into Hardy's problems. His conclusions were the same: long swing, arm barring out. Spring training was a process of ironing out these kinks and implementing an improved mechanical system was unveiled in Anaheim. Hardy has closed his stance a bit, removed the added toe-tap in his stride and added a bend in his elbow. All this in conjunction has quickened his swing and moved him through the hitting zone rapidly:
This faster swing has gotten Hardy to open up his hips more when attacking the pitch:
As you can tell from the top image, Hardy is still back while the pitch is almost at to the hitting zone. In the lower image, Hardy is driving towards the ball, already moving his hips and upper body towards to zone. This is a stark contrast from the above image in which Hardy is still loaded.
Through three games, Hardy is 4-for-12 with two home run. While his contact rate needs improvement, this is a step in the right direction for the 27-year-old. Like Kelsie Smith noted in the Pioneer Press this morning, the early returns are favorable for the newest Twins shortstop. "I shortened up my swing; my stance is a lot different. My hands aren't as far away from my body as they were in '09, which makes it a lot easier to get to the ball." Hardy told Smith after Wednesday's game. "It was a full year of creating bad habits, and it's taken some time to get rid of them, but I feel like I'm on the right path."
This certainly bodes well for him and an swift return to his pre-2009 performance level.