Jonathan Schoop’s breakout season – which included his first trip to the All-Star Game and setting new career highs in all run-production categories – will end with the 25-year-old second baseman winning this year’s Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award.
The award is selected by a vote of local media, who select their top three choices for the award with the winner tabulated on a 5-3-1 point system. Schoop will be presented the MVO award during an on-field ceremony before Sunday’s home season finale.
“Every day you get an award is something special. It's nice, you know?” Schoop said. “I just want to get better and I don't take this award for granted. I just want to go into the offseason this year and try to be better than it was this year.”
Schoop entered Friday’s game leading the team in most offensive categories – runs (88), hits (174), doubles (33), RBIs (105), batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.340) and slugging percentage (.514). Schoop’s 105 RBIs ranked second in the American League, trailing only former Orioles teammate Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners (112). He led all AL players with 128 double play turns, and his range factor of 4.91 led all major league second basemen.
“[It’s] deserved,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “To have that number of RBIs, [there’s] a consistency and the durability. … He’s always had the durability, but the consistency, it really took his game to another level. He didn’t get out of whack for very long. And I think he’s grown into a real consistent guy you can count on. When I see him 0-for-3 and then walk in his last at-bat, it’s a real sign of maturity. I think it happened [Thursday], because you end up wanting to make up for it with one swing and that’s something that a couple of our guys haven’t grasped yet.”
Schoop also leads the Orioles with 5.3 wins above replacement, more than doubling his 2.1 from last season, using a more disciplined approach at the plate to avoid some deep slumps that had plagued him earlier in his career. Schoop’s offensive WAR of 4.8 ranked sixth in the AL.
Schoop opened the season in the No. 8 spot in the Orioles lineup, and the team experimented with him in other batting positions before placing him in the No. 3 spot right behind Manny Machado in a game in at the Tampa Bay Rays on June 24. That’s where Schoop found a home in a prime run-production spot in the lineup.
“That wasn’t a ‘If not him, then who?’ [situation],” Showalter said. “We also wanted to get a different look with Manny. We tried moving him up a couple times [before] and he kind of spit the bit a few times, even going up to the five-hole. We moved him around some and we could tell it wasn’t in his best interest, which wasn’t good for the club. There were just some really mature at-bats that he was starting to have, and not getting himself out. … We thought he might be ready for it. … Jon didn’t miss a beat. If anything, he embraced it and ran with it.”
Schoop’s bat scalded during the middle months of the season as he hit 17 of his 32 homers with 53 RBIs in June and July. But his first- and second-half splits are remarkably similar – he owned a .295 average in each half going into Friday and had 54 RBIs in the first half and 51 in the second half.
Schoop said he wants to use this season as a springboard to continue to get better.
“I think I improved a lot, but I think I have more room to go,” Schoop said. “I have a lot more to go. I think I will be better next year. … Keep working. Go in the gym, keep getting stronger. The season is a long season, and you've got to give your body power. You go out there and work hard, get in the cage and maintain yourself and get a routine and learn what the pitcher is trying to do to you. The first half, maybe they're trying to do something different to you and try to achieve your goals. Go out there and see the ball and get a plan and do it.”
Other players who received votes were Dylan Bundy, Welington Castillo, Adam Jones, Machado and Trey Mancini.
The award is named for Lou Hatter, a longtime sportswriter for The Baltimore Sun who covered the Orioles for 27 years.
Bundy to start Sunday
Showalter said that Bundy is scheduled to start Sunday’s regular-season home finale against the Rays.
Bundy would make his second straight start on five days’ rest. In his most recent outing, he allowed six runs on seven hits and a walk over 4 1/3 innings.
With Bundy’s innings count at 169 2/3 – 60 frames more than last year – he’s close to reaching the 180-inning threshold the Orioles set for him at the beginning of the season. Throughout the second half, the Orioles have utilized days off to give Bundy additional rest.
“He feels great,” Showalter said. “I know he’d really like to pitch. … Part of our problem is also that people who would take his place would come out of bullpen. But we’re always going to err on the side of what’s best for them, but we’ll adjust to the other stuff. … Right now, it’s him.”
Showalter hasn’t announced the rotation beyond Sunday, and days off Monday and Thursday, the last week of the season, could allow the manager to pluck arms out of the bullpen to see how they’d do in a starting role going into next season.
“That helps a lot,” Showalter said of the days off. “It depends on what happens the day before and the day after. It only takes one day.”
Around the horn
Shortstop Tim Beckham returned to the Orioles lineup for Friday’s game after missing the previous two with an abscessed wisdom tooth. … Pitchers will take batting practice this weekend in preparation for next week’s interleague road series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday.