So much ink has been spilled already about the worst rotation in the American League, so let’s focus on the positive: Jonathan Schoop has arrived.
Granted, you could argue that Schoop broke out in 2016. In his age-24 season, the up-and-coming second baseman played in all 162 games, smashing 25 homers. Still, that performance felt a bit like empty calories. Schoop’s .298 on-base percentage ranked second-worst among all second basemen who qualified for a batting title. With 137 strikeouts and just 21 walks, Schoop felt like the kind of hitter who could punish a baseball once a week when he guessed right on a pitch, but also look terrible for much of the rest of the time.
Not this year. Schoop’s numbers have surged across the board, to .297/.352/.545, on pace to top 30 homers for the first time. And while his strikeout-to-walk rate of 4-to-1 might not look like much, that’s still a sizable improvement from last year. He’s been especially productive lately too: In his past 34 games, Schoop’s batting a massive .323/.380/.638, with 10 homers and even nine walks. The underlying gauges support that skills growth, with Schoop swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone than ever before, swinging and missing less often ever before, ripping more line drives and pulling the ball more often than ever before.
Even with a slightly more refined batting eye this year, Schoop will likely remain a free swinger when compared to his slugging peers. But on an Orioles team that’ll need to win a bunch of 8–7 games to vie for a playoff berth, another potent source of offense is still most welcome.