Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Crystal Ball '10: Nick Markakis

I predicted big things for Nick Markakis last year. I was sure that all signs pointed to a breakout season. Alas, Nick could not even take a small step forward as his OBP fell off the table, his offensive production took a significant step backwards and he destroyed all my predictions that "Markakis is the Second Coming of Enos Slaughter" in one fell swoop.

So maybe Nick is not destined for superstardom but I refuse to believe that he will be as pedestrian as he was last season. Even if his best career comparison went from Enos Slaughter to Ellis Valentine in one season.

Before we start, let's partake in an annual tradition here at Dempsey's Army. Here's the 2009 Nick Markakis hit chart for OPACY:

It's a beauty. But even though Nick still hits to all fields, I always thought he would develop a bit more power and become a prototypical #3 hitter. Instead, his skill set may be better suited to the #2 hitter role, especially with guys like Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones emerging as more powerful and well-rounded hitters. I do not usually subscribe to the notion of batting order affecting offensive production but there can be a bit of a psychological effect for the hitter. It stands to reason that some hitters change their approach based on their spot in the order. A #3 hitter may feel like they need to swing away more to drive in runs while that same hitter may work the count more to get on base and set the table if they are slotted #2 in the lineup. To that end, Nick's career splits for batting order positions:

2nd .328 .411 .545 .957 128
3rd .286 .358 .457 .815 95

That's 586 plate appearances batting second and 1517 PA's batting third. It's a decent sample. Maybe Nick just hits better in the 2 hole? I think it's worth a try to plug him in there and leave him alone. It certainly couldn't hurt to have the team's two best baserunners at the top of the order.

And I still think Markakis is due for a breakout season. But maybe not in 2010. I am going with a .305/.369/.481 line. That will get him back in the .850 OPS range and who knows? Plug him in as the #2 hitter and maybe he reaches the heights I predicted for him in 2009.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

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