Looking on the surface of the 2014 season, it appears that Nick Markakis is hitting fairly well. The perception of his season seemed to be so high, that a couple of weeks ago, Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette was starting to be asked whether or not he planned to pick up Markakis’ team option, which would pay the long time Baltimore right-fielder $17.5 million in 2015 (there is a buyout of $2 million). Maybe it was his 18-game hitting streak that put next year on everyone’s radar, or maybe it was the fact that Markakis was hitting .300 and getting on base while primarily batting leadoff.
When the questions about the team option for Markakis were being asked, we hear at the Depot were a little confused as to why. Markakis is currently batting .297/.346/.392, which is good for .327 wOBA and a 103 wRC+, which essentially makes him a league average hitter. A league average hitter is a valuable commodity, but it isn’t necessary to pay $17.5 million to get one ($15.5 million if you include the buy-out). Sure, when comparing Markakis’ line so far in 2014 to what he produced last year, he looks like an All-Star. But one must take into consideration that Markakis was basically replacement level in 2013. Jon may have put it best when he sent out the following tweet.
If Nick continues his "solid start", then he will have the second worst season of his career. #Orioles
— Camden Depot (@CamdenDepot) May 13, 2014
What does this have to do with a platoon issue with Markakis? Similar to his deceivingly “productive” numbers at the plate this year, his platoon issues are not immediately seen. If you compare the career numbers Markakis has against right-handed pitching to left-handed pitching, on the surface it doesn’t look he is a serious platoon candidate.
|Nick Markakis Career Splits|
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of a trend, but looking at the raw data (which includes a couple of extra statistics versus left-handed pitching not included in the graph), we start to see that the uptick in slugging percentage during the 2010 and 2012 seasons may have been artificially inflated.
|Nick Markakis vs LHP|
Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Markakis has accumulated 11 extra base hits (10 doubles and 1 home run) in 308 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. And as the figure below shows, a pitch from a left-hander literally has to be located in the middle of the strike zone for Markakis to hit it with any sort of authority.
If the Orioles have dreams about being serious playoff contenders, there are some things the team needs to do. Obviously the biggest thing deals with improving the pitching staff (which was actually talked about quite a bit yesterday), but another thing is letting go of the idea that Nick Markakis is an everyday right fielder. Don’t get me wrong, he is a useful player, but he’s the equivalent of Ben Revere (without the speed) when he faces left-handed pitching. Yesterday, Jon suggested on twitter that Matt Kemp was an interesting trade option. A few days earlier I mentioned Alex Rios. Trade season is just around the corner and those are just two of what will likely be many options that the team will (hopefully) look into.