15 June 2018

What Happened To Jonathan Schoop?

In 2017, Jonathan Schoop had a career year at the plate. His numbers -- .293/.338/.503, .355 wOBA, 121 wRC+, 5.2 BB%, 3.8 fWAR, 5.2 bWAR -- were all career highs across the board. There were even some questions about whether Schoop had surpassed the offensive skills of superstar Manny Machado.

No one is asking those questions now. Schoop, who missed about a month with an oblique injury earlier in the season, has yet to get going. In 47 games and 208 plate appearances, he has posted a .209/.246/.347 line and a 57 wRC+. Schoop has typically been up and down from year to year -- his wRC+ each year from 2014-2017, respectively, is 64, 113, 99, and 121 -- but him being this far down is rather shocking.

So what's happening at the plate? Unlike some of the very best hitters in the game, Schoop doesn't routinely make hard contact. But he's made that work at times in the past, and he did improve slightly last year. So far in 2018, he's been noticeably worse:

2016: 87.3 avg EV (t-235), 4.9 barrels/PA (t-142)
2017: 87.8 avg EV (t-158), 5.0 barrels/PA (t-136)
2018: 85.0 avg EV (t-222), 3.0 barrels/PA (t-195)
Min. 100 batted ball events

Schoop is making less hard contact, and he's barreling the ball less. That means the ball isn't traveling as far:

2016: 163 feet (t-248)
2017: 169 feet (t-222)
2018: 155 feet (t-194)
Min. 100 batted ball events

More hitters will reach that 100 batted ball threshold, so if Schoop's struggles continue, his rank will continue to drop.

Schoop has a .241 BABIP at the moment, which is low for him (he's been over .305 in each of the last three seasons). But, again, he's not hitting the ball as hard or as far; he's not simply dealing with some bad luck. Based on expected wOBA, which focuses on a player's amount and quality of contact, Schoop may even be outperforming his already low .256 wOBA:

2016: .298 xwOBA
2017: .334 xwOBA
2018: .241 xwOBA
Min. 100 plate appearances

That is alarming. Schoop's xwOBA is fifth worst among all hitters with 100 plate appearances. Schoop is even just behind Craig Gentry, who's at .242, and Chris Davis, at .270.

Quickly, let's move to plate discipline. Schoop posting a BB% over 5% last year was stunning, but unfortunately, it hasn't continued. He's back down to 3.4%. After posting career lows in chase rate (35.9%) and swing rate (52.3%) last season, those numbers have jumped back up. He's swinging at pitches out of the zone 38.7% of the time and swinging 56.2% of the time overall. But as pitchers had been throwing him fewer pitches in the zone from 2015-2017 -- 47.9 Zone% to 45.5% to 43.4% -- he's being challenged more now: 45.3%. Opposing pitchers aren't as afraid, and rightfully so (and they're still throwing him plenty of fastballs).

When a player is struggling this much, usually there are questions about his health. Schoop didn't seem to rush back from his oblique injury in April, and from all accounts, he's not hurt. That doesn't mean he's 100%, of course, but many players rarely are during such a long season.

Because of Schoop's struggles, the Orioles are stuck in a difficult position. There is no question that the Orioles must rebuild, but as you'd expect, they are hesitant to trade anyone who is under team control beyond this season. Really, they're hesitant to trade anyone, so the odds of them trading someone like Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Mychal Givens, Schoop, etc. are minimal.

At the same time, is Schoop really someone the O's should extend and build around? He's not a star, but he has shown that he's a good, though inconsistent, player. But he also may have to move off of second base in the next couple years as his range gets worse. If you do think Schoop is someone to build around, maybe this isn't the worst time to talk extension. But things don't always work like that, and who knows if Schoop would be willing to make a deal or settle for less knowing that he's better than this. Maybe he'd rather hope for a bounce-back later this season and in 2019, right before becoming a free agent.

There's almost no way that Schoop is this bad now, but his incredibly slow start can't be attributed to being unfortunate. He'll never be in Chris Davis territory because he doesn't have that type of contract situation, but things don't always have to get better just because you think they should. Hopefully Schoop starts barreling the ball more and figuring things out. The Orioles really need him to.

Photo: Keith Allison. Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball Savant


Jan Frel said...

The more I learn about how viruses and bacteria that people pick up play important roles in ongoing mental health, immune system strength, and many other things... the more I wonder if it is some advanced bacteria/virus hanging out in an Orioles mid-Atlantic (read swampy) or Florida (read swampy) facility that injured players, and developing rehab in that might be a culprit for these incredible nose dives and suddenly stunted, formerly promising careers. If you aren’t familiar with the break-neck pace of medical research discovery in this area, I pre-forgive your scoff and dismissal of this. It strikes me that O’s having a reputation for being unable to develop pitchers is rooted in something that is not understood.

Jon Shepherd said...

One, I am an infectious disease expert with a focus on emerging agents. Two, there are a lot of fanciful explanations we can create.

Easiest explanation is that the disjointed developmental system and a silo structured organization is more likely to see injury or poor development due to sub par communication and instruction.

Unknown said...

Schoop is simular to Roughend Odor from the rangers, when pitchers figure out you swing at everything and have drastic weaknesses to specific pitches\shifting They gut you. That and players with really poor walk/strike out rates dont usually succeed and the ones that do have such a razor thin margin, lose a small amount of skill from an injury and its game over.

Its sad hes tanked so hard hopefully he can rebound a bit so they can trade him next year.

Pip said...

These comments made me consider something: maybe the orioles are just ignoring the really important skill? They took Jason Garcia in the rule 5 because he threw hard, but ignored his lack of control. They acquired Brach because he had the same virtue and he turned out fine. But maybe drafting hard wild throwers isn’t a good idea? Maybe control guys are better?
And regarding bats, maybe power isn’t what they should be looking for, but control? Are four singles in a game better than one home run? I would say so. The Orioles are literally ignoring guys with a good eye in favor of powerful fence-swingers who K 20-30% of the time.
As home run rates increase, that value becomes more common and less valuable. Alvarez led the NL in home runs and nobody wanted him except the fool Orioles who don’t mind carrying useless DH bats. Mark Reynolds couldn’t find a job, Chris Carter couldn’t find a job, because that skill by itself isn’t desirable anymore.
The Orioles need to redefine what matters in draft picks.
If the comparison of Schoop and Odor is valid, Schoop’s value is gone.

Unknown said...

The O's for years have been bargain bin shopping for 3/4th the roster. There player dev over the last 20years is pathetic. So they dumpater dive most of the roster.

One dem sluggers and fixable relivers are/were cheap, its a smart strategy until you start overpaying them after a good year or two (Trumbo\Davis\Oday ECT).

Just sadly this plan is not a great long term fix. Draft and international signings are way too impprtant now ans the os trade away or give away large chunks of both pools to save a few bucks every year. The picks they do take typically get bad luck with injury or doesn't develop. Weither the pick was bad or the dev team its imppssible to know minus the team sucks at the end result.

Unknown said...

Also the trade deadline deals where they gave away players that turned into decent players and one star for rentals that did nothing also didnt help.

The RidinRebbe said...

On Davis: is he still on his Attention Deficient meds? I think not, maybe he should be

O's Lifer said...

Davis stubbornly refuses to adjust his stance.drop the hands 6-8 inches,level out the swing,quicker to the ball with his natural strength he would hit 25 Hrs by accident.How many times did we see HOFer Cal Ripken do it when he was struggling 2-3 times I can think of,and he always snapped out of it.At the end of last season I thought major changes neede to be made with his swing and approach at the plate instead he decided to tweak what hasn't in 2 years(whats the definition of insanity).At this point he should do the right thing and approach the front office about a buy-out.How About 30mil he can retire or be a free agent.Add that to the money he has made already not a bad deal.