June's Best SS/3B Combo? J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds

SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 07: Infielders Mark Reynolds #12, J.J. Hardy #2, Brian Roberts #1 and Luke Scott #30 of the Baltimore Orioles bow their heads for the National Anthem just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the New York Yankees during a at Ed Smith Stadium on March 7, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

(Note: before I get into anything, I likely won't be able to get to the AL Dream Teams before next week- I'm currently in Italy, and while I have limited access to the Internet, my parents didn't pay all of this money so I could blog on the other side of the world. But this is kind of my thing, so I thought I'd try to get out a quick post today. The Dream Team posts take a while, though, so I'm holding off on those until next week.)

Sure, there are still a few days left in June. But most of the month has passed, and a couple of Orioles players have been going bonkers for the past few weeks. It also turns out that they both were acquired over the winter, and they play next to each other on the left side of Baltimore's infield. Early in the season, injuries and issues with adjusting to AL were obvious given how the duo played, but if you look at what they've done in June, it seems pretty obvious that they've figured things out. Over the past month, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds have been by far the best left side of any infield in baseball.

 

J.J. Hardy - Shortstop

Before June: .239/.317/.370 in 105 PA

After June: .304/.369/.538 in 207 PA

A monster month can be awfully kind to a player's numbers, and that's especially true for someone like Hardy, who missed nearly a month early in the season. The 28-year-old shortstop struggled upon returning from the DL in mid-May, but he blew up from the moment that the calendar turned to June. In his first two games of the month, Hardy went 5-for-8 with two homers, and he's continued to mash from there. On the month, Hardy's posted a .482 wOBA. Only Paul Konerko and Prince Fielder have hit more homers than Hardy so far in June.

Mark Reynolds - Third Base

Before June: .193/.304/.375 in 207 PA

After June: .227/.356/.463 in 295 PA

Reynolds is proving to be a ridiculously poor defender (-14 UZR, -25 DRS in just 78 games), but he's hit so well this month that it doesn't even matter. Think Ryan Braun's rookie season. Now, Reynolds' defense graded out much better last year, but it seems like 2010 was the statistical aberration given how poor his numbers from 2008, 2009 and now 2011 look. But Reynolds posted a .492 wOBA on the month, and there appear to signs of legitimate improvement in his game. He's striking out in just 26% of his PA's, down from last season's 35% mark, and he's pushed his walk rate up to 16%. The improving walk rate is key- he needs to provide monster walk and power numbers to make up for borderline unacceptable batting averages.

The Possible Competition

Hardy and Reynolds aren't the only left side of the infield that's been bubbling this month, though. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus have been doing their thing in Texas, offering decent offense along with ridiculously good defense. Both of them have only been slightly above-average with the bat this month, but they've combined to put up above-average defense and base-running marks. Alex Rodriguez has been hot for the Yankees, but with Derek Jeter on the DL, the Yankees haven't exactly gotten great value at shortstop.

But realistically, Hardy and Reynolds are blowing EVERYONE out of the water. Hardy's been the best shortstop in baseball over the past month, while Reynolds has been the second-best third baseman in the majors over that same period despite an ugly -4.1 UZR for the month. They've posted a ridiculous 3.0 WAR combined on the month. Andrus and Beltre combine to post just 1.6 WAR. Nobody else is really that close.

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