Another voice weighs in on Markakis’ power outage
Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis’ low home run (10) and RBI total (57) has been a popular topic around these parts so I figured there would plenty of interest in a recent Baseball Prospectus piece on that very topic.
The article, titled “Nick Markakis: Greek God of Warning Track Power,” was written by Craig Brown and he, along with his editors, were kind enough to give me permission to use some of their findings. I would have posted the link and I certainly encourage everyone to visit the website and read the fine work at www.baseballprospectus.com, but it is subscription only.
Essentially, Brown concludes that Markakis’ RBI numbers are down significantly, largely because of Brian Roberts’ extended absence, and he simply hasn’t had many quality RBI opportunities. However, Markakis is hardly blameless, as Brown points out, noting that he’s become an opposite-field hitter.
Here are some excerpts from the article (all stats are good through Sunday’s game, meaning the Orioles’ 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Monday in which Markakis had two RBIs isn’t included):
“Collectively, Oriole leadoff hitters posted a .304 on-base percentage while Roberts was sidelined. … Compare the total .304 OBP to the .364 OBP Roberts has posted since rejoining the team on July 23, hitting exclusively in the leadoff spot. The numbers illustrate just how much Markakis missed Roberts batting at the top of the order. In Markakis’ first 94 games of the season (all but four played without Roberts) he averaged 11.8 AB/RBI. In 59 games since Roberts’ return, Markakis is averaging 9.9 AB/RBI. … Especially when we combine his three previous seasons and see over that timeframe, Markakis drove in a run every 6.2 at bats. It turns out he's not bringing home his usual percentage of base runners. This season, Markakis is driving home just 13% of all runners, well below his career rate of 17%.”
“In 2007, almost 62% of Markakis’ plate appearances with men on base had at least one runner in scoring position. This season, just 55% of his plate appearances with runners on have come with at least one runner in scoring position. Not only is Markakis getting fewer RBI opportunities, he’s also getting a lower percentage of quality RBI opportunities. (As defined by plate appearances with at least one runner in scoring position.) When he does come to the plate with runners on second or third, he’s hitting .315/.405/.392. Basically, he's lacking the RBI results because he's lacking the opportunity.”
Brown then moves on to discussing Markakis’ declining power numbers, which he describes as “slightly more problematic” than the RBI total.
“If we look at Markakis’ 2009 6.6% homer/flyball rates, we would assume that because of his consistency from 2006 to 2008 (overall 8.7% HR/FB) his home run total would rebound in 2010. Except, as we all know, that hasn’t been the case. Markakis is no different from most hitters in that the majority of his power lives to his pull field. All but one of his home runs this season have landed to the right - or pull - side of second base. This is fine, except Markakis has evolved from a hitter who once sprayed the ball to all fields, to a hitter who now favors going to the opposite field.”
Brown then finishes the article by saying, “Markakis is still a good hitter. His contact rate of 88% is the highest of his career and he's hit at least 43 doubles for the fourth consecutive season. He's done this while bumping his walk rate to almost 11% and has no problem hitting against left-handed pitching. The power still lurks in Markakis, although it will continue to be underutilized unless he can rediscover his pull stroke. The silver lining is, even if his home run totals don't fully recover and return to 2007 levels, we can expect his RBI total to rebound from what has become an extremely forgettable year.”