Baltimore Orioles’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop ranked fourth among all Major League Baseball second basemen last season with 16 home runs. Unfortunately, among full-time players at his position, he ranked dead last in batting average and on-base percentage — .209 and .244, respectively. The rookie drew only 13 walks for the entire season. All things told, it was a respectable debut season for the Orioles’ second baseman, who, if we’re being honest, only started the season with the Orioles because there were no other options.
If 13 walks in 481 plate appearances does not tell you all you need to know about Schoop’s rookie season, here is another stat to chew on. Last season, Schoop swung at a whopping 40.5% of pitches outside of the strike zone. He clearly had a lot of learning with respect to taking a patient and disciplined approach at the plate. Schoop was eaten alive by anything but a high and inside fastball last season thanks to the fact that pitchers knew he was swinging if the ball was even remotely close to the plate.
This season, it has been a different story for the Orioles second baseman. In eight games this year, Schoop has batted .292 with three home runs and seven runs batted in. He is tied with Dustin Pedroia for most home runs at the position, and his .708 slugging percentage leads the league. He has even managed to draw a walk, which puts him on pace for a whopping 20 walks this season.
Jonathan Schoop has done all of this by taking a more measured approach at the dish. He has swung at only 23.8% of pitches outside of the strike zone according to PITCHf/x. That is nearly a 50% reduction from a year ago, and the difference is obvious. Schoop is not chasing early in the count and putting himself in a hole for the rest of the at-bat. He has gotten himself into a 1-0 count in nine of his 26 plate appearances and has reached a three-ball count three times.
Clearly, there has been a maturation for the Orioles’ second baseman this season. Schoop will never be the type of player to draw 100 walks in a season. He is still swinging at 47.1% of pitches, and a whopping 68.9% of pitches in the strike zone. Schoop is going to take his hacks when he comes to bat, but as long as he shows a modicum of plate discipline as he has in this very small 2015 sample size, the Orioles will get much more than the 0.5 WAR Schoop gave them last season.
Jonathan Schoop appears well on his way to figuring out how to work a Major League at-bat. He took his lumps last year, but has made the necessary changes that could allow him to be one of the best offensive second basemen in the league. If he can avoid returning to his swing-at-everything 2014 ways, Schoop may be an All-Star this season based on his early showing. Second base has been a position of need for the Orioles since Brian Roberts‘ career was shortened by injuries. With a newly disciplined Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles may finally have their man at second base.