Last night in a game against the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles’ Manager Buck Showalter unveiled a new lineup with hopes that it would spark some offensive production. This lineup featured Manny Machado as the leadoff hitter followed by his secret handshake buddy, Jonathan Schoop, batting in the two hole. While Orioles’ fans may have been sad to see their favorite new outfielder, Joey Rickard, being left out of the fun, they should be excited about having Schoop’s bat higher in the order.
So far this season Schoop has been hitting the ball well in the bottom half of the lineup (primarily in the 7th and 8th slots), posting a .275 average through 160 plate appearances. The 24-year-old second baseman ranks third on the team in hits with 43, fourth in RBI with 26, and fourth in slugging percentage with a .487 mark. With runners on base Schoop has posted a .311 average through 74 at-bats and has driven in 20. It’s evident that Schoop can produce and shouldn’t be buried behind guys like Pedro Alvarez, who just hasn’t been performing well this year. The Curacaoan infielder deserves the opportunity to make a bigger impact for the Orioles’ offense.
The move up into the top half of the lineup will give Schoop the opportunity to get to the plate more often and more opportunities to hit with runners on base. Batting behind someone who consistently gets on base, like Machado, will provide Schoop with plenty of opportunities to drive in runs for the Orioles, which is exactly what happened in Schoop’s first at-bat in the new order. Machado led off with a double to center field and Schoop followed with a double of his own to score Machado. While the Orioles went on to lose the game, the order makes sense as it moves one of the team’s most productive hitters into the top of the order.
Obviously the Orioles aren’t done tweaking their lineup and it’s unclear whether or not Schoop will stick in the top half or not (this discussion may be moot by the game tonight), but it does seem to be a step in the right direction. Ideally, Machado (the team’s best hitter) shouldn’t be the leadoff man, although he did excel in the role last season. Schoop is not the perfect two-hole hitter for this team, but lineup optimization is another discussion for another day. The Orioles have a lot of pieces on offense to move around and the uncertainty in the corner outfield positions makes constructing a lineup that much more difficult, but giving Schoop this opportunity shows that the organization has faith in their young second baseman.