My last article discussed Jonathan Schoop’s lack of production at second base and how offensively he isn’t ready for the majors. One of the most common reactions to this article brought up the issue of if you demote Schoop then whom do you put in his place. Clearly, you all did not read the article carefully (not that I blame you, I mean it’s a blog, right?). The last line of my article stated, “Now if only the Orioles had a player at Norfolk to replace Schoop at second base; a player who can steal the occasional base and has an OBP over .400…” Forgive me for my attempt at subtlety. Let me try again.
The Baltimore Orioles’ Triple AAA affiliate is the Norfolk Tides. The Tides have a baseball player, a second baseman, who currently has an on base percentage of .402 (that’s really good!). He also stolen seven bases. His name is Jemile Weeks. Jemile Weeks is the answer to who will replace Jonathan Schoop at second base. Are we clear? Not yet? Okay.
Currently the Orioles rank 2nd in homeruns in all of baseball. This is good. However, the Orioles rank only 8th in total runs scored. You would think based on the number of homeruns they hit that their runs scored per game would be higher, but it’s not. Why? Upon closer inspection we discover that the Orioles not only rank 2nd in homeruns but also 3rd in overall batting average. So, wait they hit for a high average and hit homeruns, so why are they ranked 8th in total runs scored?
Or to put it another way, what are the Orioles weaknesses that prevent them from scoring more runs. The Orioles rank 28th in walks having walked only 222 times (that’s a 131 times less than the Oakland Athletics who rank first in walks and happen to have, not coincidentally, the best record in all of baseball). But before I go any further let me give Schoop some love because Schoop has 7 of those walks so without him the Orioles would only have walked 215 times… The Orioles also struggle with stealing bases. Currently the Orioles rank dead last in steals with 25 total stolen bases (For some perspective, the LA Dodger’s Dee Gordon alone has 42 stolen bases this year). Unfortunately, I can’t throw any love to Schoop on this one has he has 0 steals this year.
Okay, so we’ve identified two very specific ways the Orioles can improve. Walks and steals. It also happens that we have a second baseman in the minors who does these two particular things pretty well. Currently Jemile Weeks in the minors has walked 32 times in 48 games. Weeks has actually walked more times than he’s struck out. He also has stolen 8 bases. Now I’m not putting him in Dee Gordon territory with his base running skills but he does add speed to a team woefully deficient in that particular area.
Jemile Weeks is not superman. He’s not going to be a superstar. However, he is an upgrade over Schoop and he can provide a boost in the exact area that Orioles have shown weaknesses. And I understand the Orioles have gotten to first place with Schoop, but does this mean you should stop trying to get better. Were the Athletics content with just having the best record in baseball? Nope, they went out and traded for a top of the rotation pitcher and a mid-rotation pitcher. Why? Because they understand this could be their year and they want to be the best team they possibly can be.
The Orioles should not rest contentedly to be in first place in July, but should continue to look for ways to improve the team. One small but profound way they can improve their team right now is by calling up Jemile Weeks to be their every day second baseman.