Orioles Can Not Afford To Keep Schoop At Third

Posted Sunday April 20, 2014 at 11:06:17 pm in Real Sports

Last night's loss to the Boston Red Sox after being up 5-0 going into the 6th was a lot of things:

  • Frustrating
  • Embarassing
  • Debilitating
  • Sloppy
  • Problematic*

I use the word problematic to describe a predicament that the O's have had since having Schoop start the season with the big club.

That predicament is one of determining whether Schoop's defensive inadequacies are worth his offensive upside.

It was a pretty easy decision to start the season. Ryan Flaherty would play 3B, J.J. Hardy would play SS, and Jonathan Schoop would play most of his time at 2B. And Steve Lombardozzi would be the backup IF. And those are all very sound and very good decisions.

But baseball has a funny way of screwing with easy decisions. Hardy has had back spasms. He left last night's game (in the middle) with hamstring issues. And it threw every little thing into disarray.

Flaherty went to SS, Schoop to 3B, and Lombardozzi went to 2B (and took Hardy's spot in the lineup).

And if we all can recall (begrudingly), Schoop has had his early share of problems at 3B.

The rest of the game went like this from the hot corner:

  • Routine play to deep third with the bases juiced in the 7th, Schoop makes a poor decision and makes a poor throw to the plate. Error, run scored, no outs made.
  • Flyball out to Lough in LF in the bottom of the 9th, Pedroia deciding to go back to 3B...Lough throws to the cutoff man...and the cutoff man (Schoop) ducks. Lough's throw ends up careeming off the backstop. Pedroia scores. Red Sox win. Everyone groans.

Prior to this game Schoop had 3 errors on the very young season. Make it 4. And a couple of other boneheaded gaffes (getting picked off at second, ducking on a throw to the cutoff man (him)).

Is Schoop ending up like Mark Reynolds defensively at 3rd? It looks like it. And unfortunately the O's have a difficult decision to make. Let me rephrase that: they HAVE to make a difficult decision, IMHO:

Here are the possibilities:

  1. Do they keep Schoop at 3B while Hardy is hurt?
  2. Do they move Schoop to SS, shift Flaherty to 3B while Hardy is hurt?
  3. Do they DL Hardy who has a hamstring issue (strain, it seems)?
  4. Do they cut Pearce to make room for a SS or a 3B?
  5. Do they option a reliever to make room for a SS or a 3B?
  6. Do they option Schoop to make room for a SS or a 3B?

My answers:

  1. NO
  2. NO
  3. YES (ideally)
  4. MAYBE
  5. NO
  6. MAYBE

#3, #4, and #6 make sense.

Ideally #3 happens. You then call up someone like David Adams, Alexi Casilla, or Jemile Weeks if you think he can play SS. Or you sign Alex Gonzalez who was cut by the Tigers yesterday. Yes, the same Alex Gonzalez that was traded to the Tigers for Steve Lombardozzi. Crazier things have happened.

#4 is a toughie only because Pearce is a very good PH type with the ability to fill in defensively at OF, 1B, and even C. I think Buck likes Pearce too much, but having too many DH types (Cruz, Young, Pearce) is really hurting the club's flexibility.

#6 is also a toughie. Do you want to get rid of Schoop's bat and maturation because of his poor play at 3B while he still has the ability to play 2B decently enough? I'd argue no. But I could see it happening.

This really is a tough decision. And the best decision is to use this opportunity to get Hardy right. You then do the following:

  • Commit to Schoop ONLY playing 2B. Play him full time.
  • Make Lombardozzi a backup IF.
  • Slide Flaherty to 3B and callup Alexi Casilla to play SS.

Your position players until Hardy is truly healthy (not in any particular batting order):

  • Davis (1B)
  • Schoop (2B)
  • Casilla (SS)
  • Flaherty (3B)
  • Markakis (RF)
  • Jones (CF)
  • Wieters (C)
  • Lough (LF) - against righties, Young (DH) against lefties
  • Cruz (DH) - against righties, Cruz (LF) against lefties.

Your bench:

  • Clevenger (C)
  • Lombardozzi (IF)
  • Young (OF, DH)
  • Pearce (OF, DH, 1B, C)

...ultimately I'd like to see Duquette make the tough decision and cut Pearce IF Hardy won't be DL'ed. Mostly because the O's aren't using him. He's only had 7 plate appearances in 17 games.

It's a toughie, but carrying Lough, Cruz, Young, and Pearce all to put together a Frankenstein at DH and LF is killing flexibility.

FWIW, I'm sure if Pearce is cut he'll get claimed immediately. He's a valuable player.

It truly is a tough decision for the O's. But they can ill afford to keep throwing away games due to the defense (or lack there-of) at 3B.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view