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Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is back in All-Star form

Could the aging Gold Glover make a return to the Midsummer Classic?...Yes, yes he could.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles have not played a game of baseball in two days. Being that it is still so early in the season, I have had no where near enough baseball to quench my need for the sport. This has led to having too much time on my hands in the evening. So, I looked at statistics and over-reacted to them. That said, J.J. Hardy is going to have the best season of his career!!...OK, fine, fine. But it is off to one heck of a start and could be one of the best in baseball again.

The difference a year makes

Let's look at Hardy's current offensive output. Through 10 games, the shortstop is slashing .286/.333/.571 with two home runs, four doubles and six RBI. Baseball-Reference (BR) currently rates him as a 0.7 WAR player, which is huge so early in a season. For reference, Bryce Harper is a 0.9 WAR guy right now and he is a freak of nature. Fangraphs has the Arizona native rated slightly lower at 0.4 WAR. Either way, it is impressive and a massive improvement from last summer.

A year ago at this time, Hardy was still nursing a shoulder injury, which kept him out until May 7 and clearly affected him all season. In his absence, Baltimore turned to Everth Cabrera and Ryan Flaherty; not exactly a dream duo. So, while Hardy's return in the field was much appreciated (7.1 UZR in 2015), his work with the bat left a lot to be desired.

When it was all said and done, he slashed .219/.253/.311 with eight home runs, 14 doubles and 34 RBI. BR and Fangraphs agreed that he was worth virtually nothing (0.0 WAR), but yet he made $11.5 million in 2015. Not good.

He's been real, real good now

Let's just say that Hardy maintains his current hitting pace, which he likely won't, but say he does. If that happens, he would top all of his 2015 numbers by game 60 of the season, which would occur in about mid-June, with still three-and-a-half months to play.

So, while I don't think his current pace of 29 home runs, 59 doubles and 88 RBI is a reasonable expectation, I do believe that he is the midst of a big rebound season that could send him to what may turn out to be his final All-Star Game appearance.

Because what has made the 33-year-old a valuable piece throughout his career has been his glove, and it's still as good as ever. He remains without an error in the 2016 season and has done so playing 87.0 innings so far and being given 40 chances in the field.

J.J. has never been fleet of foot; the most bases he has stolen in a season is two. So, his range has not been affected in the same way some more athletically-gifted players would be as they get older. Hardy's positioning and reactions allow him to play one of the most difficult positions in baseball and to do so at a high level.

Plus, his manager, Buck Showalter, knows and respects Hardy. He is an aging veteran and will need his days off if he wants to make it through an entire season and, hopefully, a playoff run. In those moments, Flaherty or Manny Machado can slot into the position and fill-in just fine.

The competition

If the wily, old vet wants to make the Midsummer Classic for the American League, he is going to have to fend off a certain someone who is notably younger than him. That someone is 21-year-old Carlos Correa. He is still looking good at the plate (.267/.340/.511), and the star power is real. Experts can't help but rave about him.

On top of that you have established players like Elvis Andrus, who is crushing the ball right now, Alcides Escobar, who is a Royal and those fans are not above stuffing the ballot box, and Troy Tulowitzski, who has been awful with the lumber as a Blue Jay but remains a well-known figure.

But I mean, come on! No one could be more likable than Hardy. As Showlater recently said, in reference to his shortstop, "You like to see good things happen to good people." J.J. is a good guy and making the AL All-star team would certainly qualify as a good thing. Make it happen.

If Hardy keeps on hitting and stays healthy, it won't be a difficult decision to make. For now, enjoy what could be the renaissance of a career. Or at least, that's what I plan on telling myself.

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