2014 is the final year of Nick Markakis‘ six-year, $66 million contract extension that he inked with the Orioles back in 2009. At the time, I remember thinking about how great it was to see the O’s investing in their young stars. Weren’t those days just splendid? — Ah, the dream again. Markakis had hit 43 home runs combined in 2007 and 2008 and it appeared as though the had O’s locked him up right in the prime of his career.
Not so fast.
Then he went from a .306/.406/.491 hitter (in ’08) to a .271/.329/.356 hitter (in ’13). Here we are in January of 2014, with Markakis due to make $15 million, and fans can’t wait to see the O’s cut bait. How quickly things squalor in Charm City.
I have no idea what to expect from Markakis this season so again, I turn to the projections.
ZiPS: .276/.336/.396, 12 HR, 62 RBI
Steamer: .278/.347/.411, 12 HR, 71 RBI
Oof. As you can see, the advanced metrics community does not believe in a bounce back season Markakis. It understandable, Markakis’ WAR has dropped steadily the past three seasons (2.7, 1.7, -0.1). Why should anyone assume he’ll be any better this year?
The deeper I dig into Markakis’ numbers the more I notice how similar his approach at the plate has been since he came into the big leagues in 2006. Check this out.
Mouse over statistics columns for explanation.
|2006||23.8 %||65.9 %||45.9 %||78.5 %||91.8 %||88.5 %||52.6 %|
|2007||23.4 %||64.1 %||44.7 %||68.7 %||90.3 %||84.9 %||52.3 %|
|2008||18.0 %||64.2 %||41.2 %||69.2 %||88.9 %||84.6 %||50.1 %|
|2009||23.3 %||61.0 %||41.8 %||73.2 %||92.0 %||86.6 %||48.9 %|
|2010||25.7 %||60.3 %||41.4 %||84.7 %||92.5 %||89.9 %||45.5 %|
|2011||26.0 %||61.8 %||42.3 %||82.7 %||92.3 %||89.1 %||45.5 %|
|2012||27.6 %||59.7 %||41.3 %||86.3 %||93.9 %||91.0 %||42.6 %|
|2013||28.6 %||61.3 %||43.3 %||82.6 %||92.8 %||89.1 %||44.9 %|
|Total||24.6 %||62.4 %||42.7 %||78.9 %||91.6 %||87.8 %||47.9 %|
You’ll notice in the table above that Markakis approach at the plate last season was roughly the same as his career averages, however batting average (.271 in 2013, 292 career average) home runs (10 in 2013, 17 HR average per season), doubles (24, 39) and RBI (59, 81) were all down. I have so assume some of that was injury related — remember CC Sabathia he broke Markakis’ thumb in early September of 2012, but managed to start for the O’s on Opening Day last season.
Here’s what number 21 told MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko in a recent interview on WBAL radio:
“It all ties into the same thing,” he said. “With my strength not being where it was, I was having to make adjustments I’ve never really had to try before, and I just think I was pressing a little bit, and just a bit jumpy. And when you do that against the type of pitching and players you’re facing, it makes things a lot more difficult. Instead of being relaxed and letting the ball come to me, I felt like I had to get a little more behind it, and it kind of throws things off when you’re not where you need to be.
So now let’s play a fun little game and assume he’s back to 100 percent. What if Markakis bounces back at the dish this season? It’s a contract year, with a little extra motivation and a full healthy season, I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to wonder if he could bring his average back up in the high-.290s and get back near the doubles, home run and RBI totals we saw between 2007-2011.
If the Orioles really like what they see, Markakis’ $17.5 million club option for 2015 could be picked up. I don’t think anyone expects that though. If (when, really) the O’s pass on the option, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Markakis re-signed in Baltimore at a more team-friendly rate given the crop of right fielders available in 2015. Per MLB Trade Rumors, here’s that illustrious list:
Norichika Aoki (33)
Michael Cuddyer (36)
Chris Denorfia (34)
Jeff Francoeur (31)
Scott Hairston (35)
Torii Hunter (39)
Nick Markakis (31) – $17.5MM mutual option; $2MM buyout if club declines
Alex Rios (34) – $13.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Nate Schierholtz (31)
Ichiro Suzuki (41)
As rough as it’s been to stomach that $66 million season, Markakis could calm that gurglely feeling with a strong season in 2014. I’m not willing to write him off just yet.