19 September 2014

The Giant Hole in Baltimore's Lineup

The Baltimore Orioles have a stellar offense, and it’s one of the primary reasons they have secured their first AL East division title since 1997.  Look almost anywhere on team offensive leaderboards and you’ll find the Orioles ranked at or near the top (actually, don’t look at OBP).  Runs scored? 7th. Batting Average? 8th.  Weighted On-Base Average?  Tied for 5th.  OPS+?  4th.  Looking at just the team’s power numbers, you can really see where the team gets the majority of its offensive value.  Home Runs?  1st (by a very healthy margin).  Slugging percentage? 3rd.  Isolated Power?  2nd.  Combine that potent offensive attack with one of the best defenses in all of baseball, a dominant bullpen and a (non Ubaldo) starting pitching staff that has pitched to the tune of a 2.48 ERA since August 17, and you have a pretty good ball club.

When you look at the offensive contributors individually, it’s easy to tell why the Baltimore offense has been so good.  Setting a minimum number of plate appearances to 200, you get a list of 11 players, with 6 of them being better than the league average according to OPS+.


Of the 5 players that are below an OPS+ of 100, you have Chris Davis at 98 (which is AMAZING considering he has batting average of .196), J.J. Hardy at 97 (only just below average, and combined with excellent defense at a premium position), and Caleb Joseph at 85 (also combined with excellent defense at a premium position).  The one player that really sticks out, especially considering the number of plate appearances he’s received is Jonathan Schoop.

So just how bad has Schoop’s season been offensively?  Well, to start he’s been the least productive second baseman in baseball when holding a bat, according to wOBA and wRC+ (minimum 400 PA’s).  With a little over a week to go, he’s on pace to get 487 plate appearances, and finish with a .212 batting average and .245 on-base percentage.  According to the Baseball-Reference play index, he’d be just the 8th player since 1947 to have a batting average less than .215 and an OBP less than .250 while receiving a minimum of 475 plate appearances.

Rk Name Yrs From To Age
1 Hal Lanier 2 1967 1968 24-25 Ind. Seasons
2 J.P. Arencibia 1 2013 2013 27-27 Ind. Seasons
3 Andres Thomas 1 1989 1989 25-25 Ind. Seasons
4 Bob Boone 1 1984 1984 36-36 Ind. Seasons
5 Pedro Garcia 1 1974 1974 24-24 Ind. Seasons
6 Zoilo Versalles 1 1967 1967 27-27 Ind. Seasons
7 Bob Lillis 1 1963 1963 33-33 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/18/2014.

Bob Boone and J.P. Arencibia are/were both catchers and four of the other five were shortstops or utility men, so if this holds, Schoop will be the just the second second baseman ever to accomplish this feat (Pedro Garcia was the first).  Admittedly, Schoop’s main value as a hitter comes from his power, where his isolated power of .145 is well above league average for second baseman (.113) and places him 5th among all second baseman (minimum 400 PA’s), ahead of names such as Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, and Ian Kinsler.
Jonathan Schoop turns the double play (photo via Keith Allison)

Of course, there are other reasons to play Schoop, in spite of his bat, mainly because of his defensive ability and the fact that the Orioles don’t really have a better option.  Many evaluators originally thought Schoop would be a better fit at third base, optimizing his strong arm and mitigating any questions about his range.  However, in his first major league season, Schoop has been better than expected at the keystone.  Obviously, one year of advanced defensive data can’t be considered fact (3 years of data is generally acceptable), but Schoop’s off to a good start as he is currently ranked the 4th best among second baseman according to UZR/150 and DRS (minimum 800 innings) in 2014.  Additionally, Schoop has been especially outstanding at turning the double play, leading all second basemen in Double-Play Runs.*

*August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs had a good article on J.J. Hardy’s ability to turn the double play last month that mentions Schoop’s ability to do so as well.

I’m a big fan of Jonathan Schoop and I think he’s going to be an excellent player in the future (both offensively and defensively), but he’s been overmatched at the major league level in 2014.  As Keith Law noted last week (ESPN Insider required and recommended), Schoop hasn’t had a successful offensive season since the first half of 2011, when he was playing in Low-A.  Depending on what happens in the offseason, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he starts next year in AAA.  However, we’re not there yet and there are some very important games in October to play before we do get there.  Right now, Jonathan Schoop is the best option that Baltimore has at second base.  We know he’ll play excellent defense, so all we can do is hope he holds a hot bat in October.

Editor's Note: an earlier version of this post stated that Schoop would be the first second baseman since 1947 to receive at least 475 plate appearances while hitting for less than a .215 average and a .250 OBP.  He is actually the second.  The post has been corrected to reflect that fact.

20 comments:

Joe Reisel said...

You're undoubtedly too young to remember but Pedro Garcia was most definitely a second baseman in 1974 (140 out of 141 games played at second base.) Indeed, in his entire career Garcia did not play a defensive game anywhere other than second base. Similarly, Andres Thomas in 1989 and Zoilo Versalles in 1967 were shortstops, not utility men.

Pat Holden said...

To further your point on DPR, Schoop's DPR is currently the best (by a wide margin) of any Orioles 2B since it started being tracked in 2002.

Anonymous said...

Another option to consider might be starting Flaherty at 2B (to take advantage of his recent hot streak) and penciling in Schoop as the defensive sub...

Nate Delong said...

Joe, you are correct. Good catch. I used the baseball reference play index for this, so I'm guessing that when I reset the parameters to show just second basemen, I forgot to change the plate appearances from it's default 502. Since Garcia had 494 in 1974, he didn't show up in the list, leading me to think Schoop would have been the first.

Anonymous said...

Had a thought the other day about this very subject. A classy move by the Orioles would have been to resign Brian Roberts and allow him to play on a winning Orioles team. Checking the stats, he had a slightly higher batting average this year than does Schoop. Just a thought.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Roberts may have been a little better offensively, but he's not nearly the defender at this point in his career as Schoop appears to be.

Anonymous said...

Why were Lombardozzi and Weeks not given more opportunity at the big league level this year? I know Buck loves defense, but are they both that bad defensively?

Jeremy said...

I love watching Schoop and JJ play defense...their ability to turn a DP is a thing of beauty. Schoop is so erratic at the plate, though, and it will take some pretty substantial adjustments for him to become a league-average hitter. He has perhaps the worst batted ball profile in MLB among position players (very low line drive rate, very high pop-up rate, and also hits a lot of weak grounders) and strikes out too much, a trend which has only gotten worse in the second half. He has the raw tools to be a good player but will really need to rethink his approach at the plate.

As for this season, I see no reason to continue running Schoop out there on a regular basis. I would say maybe platoon him with Flaherty there, but Schoop is actually even more terrible against LHP than he is against righties. I'm also curious to see what Paredes can do on a daily basis. I would prefer them to play Flaherty and Paredes every day for the remaining games, then decide from there how to approach 2B and 3B in the postseason.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I assume Showalter loves Schoop's defense. To have stuck with him like this for an entire season, he must. Lombardozzi and Weeks are replacement level players at best. Schoop, to his credit, has at least been a bit better than that (thanks to his defense).

I'm not sure what you can learn about Flaherty and/or Paredes in the season's remaining games that would tell you anything definitive. I think we know what Flaherty is at this point. The bulk of Paredes's (limited) major league innings have come at 3B and RF, so even giving him a chance at 2B seems like a long shot.

Jeremy said...

@Matt Kremnitzer,
I'm not sure I want to see Paredes at 2B either, but I want to see more of him and Flaherty in the lineup, which means I'd rather Schoop sit and Flaherty play 2B, with Paredes at 3B. I'd also like to see Paredes play RF given that we may not have Markakis back next year. Paredes has really intriguing tools - speed, power to all fields, and a pretty good arm - from what I've seen of him.

Matt Perez said...

What's interesting about Schoop is that he has a decent HR/RB rate but a terrible walk rate, a bad strikeout rate, a terrible infield fly rate and a terrible BABIP. Even when you factor in all the infield fly balls he still has a BABIP below .300. The only thing he can do offensively is hit home runs.

I don't know what that means. Does it mean he needs to become an Adam Dunn type of player to be successful?

Philip said...

Is Ryan Flaherty a better defensive 2B?
He sure seems to have more steady hands and better range, but eyes can deceive.
And offensively, Flaherty seems to have a better eye and takes more pitches per AB.
Isn't Flaherty a better-marginally at least-hitter than Schoop?

Philip said...

Jeremy, I followed Parades when he was with Houston. He's a pretty substandard 3B, certainly not a good as the options we already had.

Joe Reisel said...

Jemile Weeks suffered a series of nagging injuries during 2014 which limited him to 63 games at Norfolk. It's my guess that there was never the right combination of opening and Weeks health.

Nate Delong said...

Paredes shouldn't see time at 2B. Both Flaherty and Schoop have spent about the same time at 2B (both less than a season's worth of innings). DRS favors Schoop 10 to 7, but Flaherty holds the edge according to UZR/150 (12.1 to 6.3), so pick your stat (or trust your eyes).

Both are better hitters against right handers, although Schoop's BB% is five times higher when he faces lefties. Still we're talking about small samples against LHP's. You could probably go with either and not see much difference, and with that being the case, maybe a match up based strategy would be the most appropriate path forward. Though if I had to pick one, I'd go with Schoop.

Jeremy said...

Philip, I think the difference between Flaherty and Schoop defensively at 2B is too close to call...Schoop definitely has a better arm but Flaherty has perhaps a bit more range. Flaherty has more defensive value overall because he is an above average 3B and passable at SS and corner OF. And yes, Flaherty is at this point a better hitter, though the hope is that within a year or two Schoop will be able to top Flaherty's career line of .220/.283/.370. It's only fair to point out that when Flaherty was 22 he was in short-season ball.

As for Paredes, I don't necessarily expect him to be a great defensive 3B, but he has obvious physical talents and is only 25 years old. If he can finally show an ability to hit ML pitching, which is what I'm interested to see, then maybe they can find a position for him next year.

Anonymous said...

Schoop has had a much better second half at the plate -especially in terms of home runs hit since the All-Star break. I see a solid defensive player with 20-home run potential for several years to come. There's no need to consider anyone else at second for the O's in the next few tears.

Anonymous said...

Wow, lets not forget this is Schoops first full year. To knock this kid is fullish and to say we should have somebody else in our organization in there is complete nonsense. Defensively you can't knock him at 2nd and as far as his bat is concerned, by this time next year I have a hard time believing any of you will be complaining. He's shown he has the ability at the plate, he can just use a bit more experience to adjust.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Who is complaining? It's just a fact to say that he hasn't been good offensively. And hopefully he does improve, but just getting more experience doesn't mean things are definitely going to click for him at the plate. That doesn't mean he still can't contribute.

Nate Delong said...

Anon2 - you might want to go back and read the article again.