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Baltimore Orioles Nick Markakis: O’s Comeback Player of the Year – 2014

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Yep, that’s right. You read it here on The Baltimore WireNick Markakis will be the comeback player of the year for the Orioles in 2014. And after that happens, next October I will remind you about this article posted on this date of December 11, 2013, and I will crow loudly about it. If by some unimaginable odd chance it does not happen as I predict, I’ll still mention it … just not quite as loudly.

Without doubt in 2013, Nick Markakis had his worst season ever for the Baltimore Orioles. Why? Why now? Why after being such a consistent hitting machine for so long?

Well, two possibilities – at age 30 he has peaked in his career and is on the downslide, or, he had nagging injuries that prevented his best performance. Other possibilities – such as he got his big payday and does not care enough to put out his best performance – can be written off as ridiculous, given our knowledge of the man’s character and his career in Baltimore.

I have a friend who is very loyal to me, as he is to anyone who is his friend or co-worker. He is almost loyal to a fault. So while I appreciate his affirmation of me and my work to those who criticize, in a way, his loyal support does not sometimes get me very far since everyone knows he is like this. And that is how Buck Showalter is about his players.

Even so … Showalter looks for Markakis to have a renovation in 2014. He has said, “You get some people who always want you to know what is wrong with them. With Nick, probably half the things we don’t even know. Someone told me the other day that he is about as good as he’s felt and looked in a long time.”

So there you have it … an A+ endorsement!

And of the factor of several injuries and surgeries, Buck said, “We’ll see. Most of it is health. He is such an internal guy with things like that.”

I do think Buck is a “loyal to a fault” sort of guy about HIS players, but I agree with him on Markakis. And I believe this past season got going before Nick could 100% rehab from the stuff that he endured in 2012. That is such a more logical explanation than some drop-off of skills that would simply not happen with a hitter at his level. Remember the statistic of a streak of consecutive series with a base hit that ended in 2011 with some ridiculous number of about 170 series? A player who did that at age 27 is not going to drop off at age 30.  Here are the numbers on Nick …

Year

Age

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2006

22

147

542

491

72

143

25

2

16

62

43

72

.291

.351

.448

.799

2007

23

161

710

637

97

191

43

3

23

112

61

112

.300

.362

.485

.848

2008

24

157

697

595

106

182

48

1

20

87

99

113

.306

.406

.491

.897

2009

25

161

711

642

94

188

45

2

18

101

56

98

.293

.347

.453

.801

2010

26

160

709

629

79

187

45

3

12

60

73

93

.297

.370

.436

.805

2011

27

160

716

641

72

182

31

1

15

73

62

75

.284

.351

.406

.756

2012

28

104

471

420

59

125

28

3

13

54

42

51

.298

.363

.471

.834

2013

29

160

700

634

89

172

24

0

10

59

55

76

.271

.329

.356

.685

My guess is that Nick Markakis spends about one-half of his time thinking about what a poor season he had and what he has to do to change that. I guarantee he is miserable inside; and he is likely working out to address the issues that were inhibiting his top level of performance.

The question arises as to if Markakis should be the leadoff hitter for the Orioles. On that subject Buck said, “He’s one of the guys, if I have to fill it internally, he’s a guy that, at the end of the day, we’d look at. In a perfect world, I’d rather not, but I could and I think Nick would do a fine job.”

What is not to like about Markakis as a leadoff hitter? Though his career average is .292, when batting leadoff he is hitting  37 points higher (.329/.375/.441).  Nick has a better eye at the plate than any umpire, and he is patient and works pitchers into deep counts while running up their pitch numbers.

The sense in which Markakis is not a leadoff hitter is his rather ordinary foot speed. He is not much of a stolen base threat, but he is a smart baserunner. I think he is the

best option the Baltimore Orioles have for leadoff.

Of course I’d rather have Shin-soo Choo!  Tweet me when it happens!

Twitter:  @OSayOrioles / @BaltimoreWireFS

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