Will the power return for J.J. Hardy?

In his first season as an Oriole in 2011, J.J. Hardy hit 30 homers. Over his first three seasons in Baltimore, he averaged 25.6 homers per year. In fact, from 2011-13, Hardy led all major league shortstops in both homers (77) and RBIs (224).

But over the last two seasons, Hardy has 17 homers combined to rank 15th among all major league shortstops and has driven in 89 runs to rank 16th.

The power outage is no doubt related - probably very much so - to injuries that have at the least impacted his ability to drive the ball and at the worst sent him to the disabled list.

Hardy injured his left shoulder diving for a ball late during spring training last March and he began the year on the DL. Even though he played in 114 games, the shoulder no doubt hampered him. Late in the year, it was learned that Hardy was playing with a labrum tear in his non-throwing shoulder.

In a late-season interview with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Hardy discussed his left shoulder injury.

hardy-looking-up-after-swing-white-sidebar.jpg“I think a lot of it is mental,” he said. “I don’t want to have surgery, I don’t want my shoulder to dislocate again. I know it’s weak, it’s not as strong as I’d like it to be, so I’m protecting it. And when I say protecting it, it’s just like I’m not letting go with my top hand if I get fooled by a pitch, where before I can let it go. I hit the ball like I’m holding on with my top hand all the time and that’s just protecting the shoulder. It’s hard to hit and not get extended.

“It’s something that I know what I need to do and that’s what I’m going to do this offseason. I’m getting started a lot earlier than I normally do. So pretty excited about kind of moving on and getting it strong and coming back next year stronger and healthy.”

The Orioles can only hope that Hardy does return healthy and stronger. He will be playing in the second season of a three-year deal in 2016, when his salary will be $12.5 million.

Hardy’s defense remains very solid and he is among the best defensive shortstops in the game. He is a valued clubhouse leader and has mentored both Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

But to get the whole package and to see Hardy return to All-Star form, the pop must return in his bat.

In 114 games in 2015, he hit .219 with eight homers, 37 RBIs, a .253 OBP, a .311 slugging percentage and an OPS of .564. By contrast, from 2011-13, Hardy had OPS marks of .801, .671 and .738. His career mark is .720.

While he averaged a homer every 23.3 at-bats from 2011-13, he averaged one every 55.3 at-bats over the past two seasons. David Lough averaged a homer every 33.5 at-bats last year.

Two years ago, Hardy was a Silver Slugger. A return to slugging next season and seeing Hardy’s bat potent again would be huge for the 2016 Orioles.

Royals win Game 1: If you stayed up past midnight, you may have still been awake when Kansas City beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings in Game 1 of the World Series. It took 5 hours, 9 minutes to complete. It was the longest Game 1 ever by innings and tied for the longest in the World Series ever.

The Royals’ first run scored on Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park homer in the first, and their last and game-winner came on Eric Hosmer’s sac fly with the bases loaded in the 14th. In series history, 17 of the last 20 teams to win Game 1 went on to win the series, including the last five. Game 2 is tonight.

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