With J.J. Hardy's injury and a fair amount of shifting around in the middle infield, it's quite safe to say that Buck Showalter's "dominant defense" has been brought back to earth.
Sure, Manny Machado still does Manny Machado things out at the six position, and Chris Davis's leather is still flashed on the regular, but the shifting dynamic has led to mistakes across the diamond for all involved, including the aforementioned backbones of the infield.
Such changes make you appreciate consistency -- not just on defense, either.
Teams need reliable pieces to the puzzle who go out night after night, put their heads down and cash in opportunity for doses of victory.
And this year for Showalter's Birds, there might be nobody who meets that description better than Jonathan Schoop.
When analyzing Schoop's body of work - including his 2015 season -- it's difficult to not attach his name with the "underrated" label. Constantly overshadowed by Machado's laser-rocket arm and the devastating bats of Davis and Mark Trumbo, it's the O's second-baseman who deserves the national headlines, not to mention a serious look for an All-Star bid over the next few seasons.
Ignore the fact that he doesn't walk and that the second-base position across the league is saturated with talent (10 starters hitting over .290) -- merely think about what he's contributing based on the role he's being asked to fill.
The job description is simple; the O's need a full-time player at second who has a plus glove and a .240-.255 bat. Nothing flashy, no major pop needed, just an above-average option at second to get the job done in an infield loaded with talent.
But for Schoop, run-of-the-mill is far from the adequate description. Though he's walked just five times in 185 plate appearances, he's ultimately making an impact that goes above and beyond the need for this club.
Hitting at .270, working with just two errors committed on the year and on-pace for nearly 25 home runs and some 90 RBI, who can deny the massive impact he's having on the end result of games?
Add in his clubhouse-friendly attitude and long-time relationship with #13, and it all adds up to Schoop being the perfect fit for the long-term future of the Orioles.
Jonathan Schoop was 12-for-37 (.324) with 4 extra-base hits on the 9-game road trip. #orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) May 29, 2016
Now of course, the .292 on-base percentage is a major red flag for some, leading to a conclusion that he's worth no more than an average AAA prospect. And while there's technically validity in that, it's not difficult to argue against.
Wins are made up of much more than an on-base number for one particular player. While the folks in the analytical side of the game have their (mostly sound) methods of evaluating offensive production, certain analyses don't take the overall structure of the game into account.
If four or five bats in the lineup fail to reach the .300 OBP mark, there's an issue. But to summarize that one piece of a starting nine isn't valuable to a team because of one number is silly and misinformed.
The Orioles aren't a small-ball team. They haven't been over the course of their first 50 games, and they won't be for the last 112. While frustrating at times, it's simply the makeup of the roster. And surprisingly enough, the O's are third in the American League in OBP with a more than admirable .322 number.
The basic premise is simple -- the Machado's and Davis/Trumbo's of the world will continue to keep the MASN base graphics orange throughout the remainder of the year. 50 games is more than an aberration, it's worthy of being locked in as a trend.
In the seven-hole, Schoop doesn't have to press or alter his plate approach to raise the walk total. That'd be detrimental to his projections across the board, numbers the Orioles need to reach September with a chance to win the AL East.
Schoop has the glove.
He has the power.
He has the RBI/slugging potential.
He has the personality.
The O's second baseman has more than enough in the toolbox to become a future All-Star middle infielder.
On-base numbers thrown on the window, Jonathan Schoop is here to stay.
All stats as of Tuesday, May 31st.