Why is J.J. Hardy struggling so much at bat?

If there was ever a player that didn't let his slump on offense carry over to his defense, it's Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. He continues to give the club superior defense at a premium position and that is important on a team that makes so many errors at other spots on the diamond.

But at the same time, the duration of Hardy's slump has to be baffling to the player, his manager and coaches - and to the fans.

Hardy has never been a big hitter for average. But he batted .269 for the Orioles last year and his career average was .264 coming into this season.

But now, over 87 games, he is batting .216 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs. He doesn't walk much either and his OBP is just .255 now down from his career mark of .320.

Some numbers on Hardy:
* Is just 1-for-36 over his last nine games.
* Is just 4-for-57 with three RBIs his last 12 games.
* Is just 10-for-102 with two homers and six RBIs his last 25 games.

Before the team hit the road for Minnesota, Hardy talked about his batting slump.

J.J. Hardy talks about his batting slump by smelewski

Hardy's struggles even go back further than the 25-game numbers listed above. In 38 games since June 1, Hardy is batting .160 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He had 10 homers in the season's first two months, but has just three since then.

In his defense, Hardy hits into about as many web gems as any player I can remember, and he did it again last night, but that doesn't explain all the struggles. Another theory some fans have had is he is struggling to hit the outside corner pitch. They feel he tries to pull the ball too much.

Hardy doesn't hit well to all fields, but that is not his game. I am sure he was getting pitched away also often last year when he hit 30 homers in 129 games.

He is batting just .194 against right-handed pitchers this season with an OPS of .584 while hitting .287 against southpaws.

Hardy is far from alone by struggling at bat on this team. But on a team that is losing so much and scoring so little in recent weeks, his struggles are starting to stand out more and more.

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