Let’s Talk About Nick Markakis

Let’s Talk About Nick Markakis

It’s May 4th, the Braves are in first place and Nick Markakis is leading the team in WAR. We’re just going to process that sentence for second before moving on.

OK.

Nick Markakis has been amazing this year. Like, legitimately amazing. He spent his age 31, 32, and 33 seasons being replacement level so this at age 34 is, well, kind of shocking. We are only 6 weeks in, so all the small sample qualifiers apply here, but lets look at what he’s actually done so far.

As we sit here today Markakis has a 165 wRC+. One-Sixty-Five. Last 3 years he’s run a 106, a 98, and a 95 for an average right around 100. He’s basically been the poster child for a league average MLB hitter. This year, he’s apparently Joey Votto.

Speaking of Joey Votto, let’s talk about the plate discipline. Nick has always had above average plate discipline as his career 13% strikeout rate shows. He’s coupled that with a career 9% walk rate so it’s clear where the nickname “professional hitter” came from. But this year? This year he’s taken it to another level. So far in 2018, Nick is running an 8% strikeout rate with a 14% walk rate. He’s almost at 2 walks for every 1 strikeout. In this day and age, even for Nick, that’s absurd.

But it’s not even the most absurd thing. One of the biggest knocks on Nick in his time with Atlanta is he just didn’t have the power of a corner outfielder. In his first three years in Atlanta, he ran ISOs of .080, .129, and .110. Those are abysmal. League average sits around .175 and Markakis was averaging barely over .100. In 2018, however, that number is sitting at .193. Nick Markakis is running a .193 ISO and a .938 OPS in an actual baseball season. He has 5 home runs already. He had 8 all of last year. Cutting your strikeouts in half while almost doubling your power output is basically impossible to do. But early on, that’s what he’s doing.

If I sound surprised, it’s because surprised doesn’t even begin to say it. I’m shocked. I’ve been as hard on Markakis as anybody and, frankly, his performance warranted that. For a rebuilding team, I never understood his place on the roster. Not this year though. Credit to him. Players usually get worse from 31 to 34. Nick has found the fountain of youth.

Now all of this is accompanied by a .340 BABIP so we do expect some regression, but this isn’t all luck based. This isn’t all his batted balls finding a few more holes. There are no fielders over the fence. Walking almost twice as often as striking out isn’t luck based.

One reason for it is an improved hitting profile. His ground ball rate sat around 48% last year and around 46% for his career. In 2018, it’s at 38%. You all should know by now ground balls are death. To power, to production, to everything. Don’t hit the ball on the ground. It’s been the driving truth behind the fly ball revolution. Don’t hit the ball on the ground. And Nick isn’t.

Markakis is also being more aggressive in the strike zone. There’s basically nothing good that happens from taking strikes and, in 2018, Nick is swinging at the highest percentage of strikes in his career. His 66% Z-swing, swings at pitches in the zone, is by far the highest of his career. Baseball, with all it’s complications, sometimes is as easy as taking balls and swinging at strikes. So far, it’s working for Nick.

Now, one thing we do need to say about all this is let’s not begin the revisionist history. I heard this on the telecast last night and have seen it on Twitter a few times already. This is not the player Nick has been the last three years and let’s not even pretend it is. We can appreciate this version of Markakis while still being honest about what he was before this. Using 2018 as a reason to call out people for criticisms of 2015, 2016, or 2017 is disingenuous at best and plain nonsense at worst.

Let’s just appreciate what he’s doing now. It most likely won’t continue, at least at this rate, but he’s been awesome. Nick Markakis has been awesome. And they absolutely wouldn’t be in first place with out him.

4 Comments

I have to say that I was in the ‘hopefully Markakis will hit OK ENOUGH so we can trade him around The July Trade Deadline to a team in DESPERATE NEED of a right fielder’ camp prior to the beginning of the regular season.

I am SO HAPPY that Markakis has apparently turned it around (I did say when I made my ‘I predict The Braves will win 86 games’ post prior to Opening Day…that perhaps Markakis, in his Free Agent Walk Year, could be primed to have a ‘good year’. “could”, not would’, lol).

I admit, during the offseason, I felt that The Braves would ‘struggle’ (especially to score runs, at times) in 2018. However, towards the end of Spring Training, I ‘saw something/felt something’ that changed my turn! I was prepared to say that we were going to win 72-77 wins…however I was able to watch pretty much every game online the last two weeks of Spring Training. I saw a team that could HIT/PITCH. I felt that if The Braves could play 7-8 during the 1st 15 games of the season (after which Acuna would be called up)…AND if they could stay ‘competitive’ until after The ASB (when Soroka, Allard and Wright would be ready to be called up)…The Braves would actually be positioned to be A MUCH STRONGER team in the 2nd half of the season.

However, it looks like I was ‘off’…by a couple of months (glad to be wrong, lol)! If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing the 1st 30 games of the season…we may end up BLOWING PAST my 86 win prediction!

Instead of trading Markakis around The July Trade Deadline….if Markakis keeps hitting like he’s been hitting….we’ll have no choice but to keep him for the duration of the season! We’ll simply need his bat in order to have a chance to make The Post Season, lol! Markakis has gone from being ‘overpaid’ at $10.5 mil…to possibly ‘a bargain’ (in relation to the WAR he’s producing, lol).

The braves love neck—loved him the last 3 years and really love him now. If Peterson keeps playing like he is and j-bats does well—AND some team offers something we don’t have much of in the minors (international draft picks) a few signed lotto tickets….we will keep neck. Nothing will ever pry him away. With this start now the braves ‘may’ sign Him again—which would be really really sad. I root for neck—appreciate what he has done for the club during the rebuild—but unless he will accept a bench role…please no. But this year I’m grabbing the popcorn when he comes up to the plate.

Really disappointed in last night’s performance by Folty! It’s just one game (unrealistic to expect The Braves to win them all, lol).

However with a Sellout (looks like all 3 games will be a Sellout….boosting revenues, which is a big issue with all the so called ‘debt issues articles’ that have come out recently)…I was hoping that The Braves would jump on The Giants and get an easy win the 1st game of the series.

Instead, Folty simply ‘didnt have it’ last night! That MELTDOWN in the 2nd inning….simply cannot happen if Folty wants to be a Long Term member of The Braves future rotation. It’s simply tough to predict ‘which Folty’ one should expect to see each time his turn in the rotation comes up.

I know that Jose Bautista got a double in his 1st at-bat…however he didnt do much after that NOR did he really look all that good playing 3rd last night. Not really sold on having Bautista hit 5th in this lineup (especially on nights when Suzuki is starting behind the plate). Flowers is still trying to get his swing back….so I guess I’m ‘ok’ with Bautista hitting ahead of Flowers.

I really havent heard if Bautista is ‘the starting 3rd baseman’ now..or if he’s platooning with Flaherty.

Preston Tucker has really ‘fallen back to Earth’ the past 2 weeks. He’s had some ‘bad pinch hitting’ appearances lately. He’s been taking fastballs right down the middle…then swinging at SLOP and grounding into double plays on the next pitch, lol! I’d like to see Tucker settle in the 4th outfielder/top left handed power pinch hitter off the bench option…..but if he cant do better than he’s been doing…then AA needs to send him to AAA, ASAP, lol!

The past two games…looks like Culberson is trying to keep his job. 2 for 4 on Thursday, got a pinch hit last night, lol. When all is said and done (when Dansby gets back), I think that Flaherty could possibly be the ‘odd man out’ (Culberson is a better glove than Flaherty…plus AA likes him)….unless Tucker continues to struggle, forcing AA to send him to AAA.

Brandon McCarthy is going tonight. Snitker needs to manage this game (not quite like it’s ‘The 7th game of The World Series’), but as a PRETTY MUCH MUST WIN. Washington is starting to heat up (they are only 3 games behind us….however 4 games behind us in the loss column). Our best bullpen pitchers (Vizcaino, Minter, Winkler and Carle) havent pitched in at least 3 days. With this being another rocking Sellout tonight, we need to put a pounding on The Giants! Series like this one, we have to AT LEAST win 2 of 3.

Right now, Markakis is playing like/putting up ‘MVP numbers’ so far 33 games into the season. I have a hard time believing that his pace is going to be sustainable. What happens when Markakis cools off/reverts back to being The Markakis of old (an average MLB right fielder)? Unless Freddie Freeman catches on fire….I’m afraid that our offense could eventually start to ‘struggle’ to score runs.

Our lineup really lacks a consistent power threat (besides Freeman). However if Markakis keeps his current 33 game pace up….our offense may be able to ‘work around that’, lol!

I simply have NO IDEA what Markakis is going to do the last 129 games of the season (Markakis isnt going to take any days off, especially if he continues to freaking hit, lol).

We need Albies and Acuna to start getting on base more often….which would give Freddie and Markakis more RBI opportunities.

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