Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nick Markakis at Home at the Top

At long last, Nick Markakis has been made the team's leadoff hitter. I have suggested such a solution several times on this blog but it's hardly a revolutionary idea. Since the collapse of Brian Roberts' performance and body, there is no one else on the team who demonstrates such patience and on base skills as Markakis does. Nolan Reimold was the only player who comes close and he can't stay on the field. But instead, Buck Showalter has favored speed over on base skills and given the majority of leadoff at bats to the like of Endy Chavez and Robert Andino.

Among Oriole leadoff hitters with more than three games in the spot, only Xavier Avery (.309), Nolan Reimold (.328) and Nick Markakis (.411) have OBP's higher than .300.

Let's take a closer look at that .411 mark for Markakis. Splits for Nick based on batting order for 2012:

Split          G GS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS TB
Batting 1st   12 12  5  1 .353 .411 .451 .862 23
Batting 3rd   50 50 22 37 .256 .333 .452 .786 90

That batting average is aided by a high BABIP (.360) but that's not too much higher than his .321 BABIP for his career. The bottom line is, he just looks more comfortable in a role at the top of the order.

And this is not new. Career splits for Markakis based on batting order:

I         Split   G   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS BAbip
    Batting 1st  12 .353 .411 .451  .862  .360
    Batting 2nd 296 .313 .384 .489  .873  .336
    Batting 3rd 545 .281 .355 .438  .794  .310
    Batting 4th  52 .273 .314 .417  .731  .282
    Batting 8th  22 .456 .538 .588 1.126  .525
    Batting 9th  65 .264 .312 .364  .676  .303

The thing that's important is to look at the split between Markakis when he's batting 1st/2nd versus his numbers when he's batting 3rd/4th. He has been quite a bit better at the top of the lineup than when he is in the heart of the lineup.

I am ususally of the opinion that a player is the hitter he is regardless of where he is in the lineup. Frank Thomas had the approach of a #3 hitter and when he was batting cleanup for Toronto late in his career, he was criticized for walking too much and not swinging more. But he was what he was and that wasn't going to change. If you bat Mark Reynolds leadoff, he will take the same approach he always does.

But I think Nick is a player who does change his approach based on his spot in the lineup. He may feel more pressure to be aggressive at the plate in the 3 or 4 hole to drive in runs. But he does not seem to feel that pressure as a 1 or 2 hitter. And his natural talents (working the count, drawing walks, good baserunning) are well suited to that role.

And while all of this seems obvious, it did not appear to be obvious to Buck Showalter. Markakis as lead off hitter may have come too late to make a difference to the Orioles' fading playoff hopes in 2012.


Unknown said...

Great piece here. I do agree with you he gets on base in the number 1 hole. He is getting a bunch of doubles out of the spot also. Only down fall is he has not hit a home-run since coming back!

DempseysArmy said...

The power outage is troubling but also makes a case for him being at the top of the order instead of further down. Once it became obvious that Nick wasn't going to hit 25 homers a season, they should have identified him as a leadoff type.

Anonymous said...

we were wasting to many at bats in leadoff spot

markakis is perfect there

bat quentanilla or andino or avery ninth

after first inning doesn't matter