The Orioles are what they are, and 24 year-old Jonathan Schoop aligns with the Orioles blueprint in a way Dan Duquette could have only molded out of his own brand of stoneware. He doesn’t get on-base as much as the fanbase thinks he should (and probably could), only Chris Davis whiffs more than he does, and only four players swing at pitches outside of the strike zone at a higher rate than Schoop.
He’s an Oriole, alright. But in that wallowing sorrow has risen a player that the O’s can prop on a pedestal and say “You know what? This one actually works.”
As of this morning, Schoop is 9th among all of baseball’s second basemen in home runs (21), and in terms of wRC+ (101), wOBA (.327) and ISO (.187), he produces at levels above the league norm. When it comes to levying Schoop’s value strictly to the truths the triage of figures above will allow, I don’t think they do him enough justice as to how productive a player he is. Cruelly enough, those numbers would be much more inflated had it not been for Schoop’s second-half tumble.
Through his first 87 games, Schoop’s .304/.338/.504 slash, 14 home runs and 123 wRC+ did much to negate the notion that the Orioles’ free-swingin’ righty could bypass his inherent swing and miss follies. As much as we want that to be true, sustained success with lots of swings is only possible to so far an extent.
In his last 51 games, Schoop has seen his slash line fall to .223/.254/.381, only producing seven home runs and a sorely desolate 63 wRC+. To paint a clearer picture, Schoop’s second-half has been worse than the newly acquired Michael Bourn (70 wRC+), whose .269/.311/.365 slash and one home run in 181 plate appearances have technically provided more value than Schoop.
Anyway, much to do with Schoop’s lingering issues hasn’t been his variance in contact. Though he’s seen his first-half 36.8 FB% drop to 31.4%, his line drive rate has risen from 19.4% to 22.9%. Sprinkle in a few more ground balls and his profile hasn’t drastically altered into something we aren’t aware of. So where’s the production? Well, for starters, he’s wasting a lot more swings.
One of Schoop’s initial first-half adjustments was his maintaining of the strike zone, or at least a rate beyond the Schoopian parallel. He’d been pretty good at picking the fastball and laying off the breaking and off-speed stuff, and for Schoop, that’s a solid foundation. Though over the past two-plus months, he’s reverted back to the guy who’s far too often digging himself into unclimbable holes.
That’s enough red to make Dexter Morgan pass out.
I mean, look at all those swings and misses down in the zone, specifically versus anything other than a fastball. Schoop’s most obvious liability has become his most vicious detractor, and as it goes, all the whiffs have created a few problems. Most noticeably, Schoop’s not unleashing on the baseball as he had prior to the All-Star break. BABIP can be useful in identifying guys who should be catching breaks or have been the bearer of good luck, but typically, guys that hit the ball hard have good BABIPs for obvious reasons.
Schoop’s .348 first-half BABIP was a result of solid contact, which typically revolves around working in predictable counts. If you make the pitcher work on your terms, odds are you’re going to find a pitch you want to hit, rather than HAVE to hit.
If Schoop isn’t hitting the fastball with force, other avenues in which to get him out become that much clearer. His .253 second-half BABIP is not only a result of decreased exit velocity, but the evidence of what happens when he’s constantly hitting on the defensive. It’s much easier to unleash that majestically demonstrative swing when the count dictates it.
The Orioles seem to be clicking at the right time at the plate, and the starting pitching hasn’t been so bad. While Schoop may not be the biggest x-factor in a lineup full of booming consistencies and equally terrifying inconsistencies, but in a race as close as this one, the Orioles are gonna need all hands on deck. In order to maintain the current pecking at the AL East lead, the Birds are gonna need all the help they can get. While this may be Schoop at his lowest, we know what happens when he’s at his best, and how he gets there.