Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Is There Any Hope For Slick Nick?

Posted by Mike on June 19, 2006

During spring training, many fans were excited about the possibility of Nick Markakis breaking camp with the parent club.  I was not, but that had as much to do with financial implications as it did with him getting the proper seasoning in the minor leagues.  The Orioles front office ended up putting more value in Markakis' strong spring, against decidedly weaker than usual competition, than his paltry 33 games experience above A-ball.  Now that we're closing in on the halfway point of the season, it's difficult to overstate exactly how poorly Markakis has played.  Consider the following:

  • He's amassed a -7.4 VORP, tied for 12th worst in the entire league. 
  • His .226 EQA makes him the 8th worst hitter in the AL with 150+ PA's
  • While Markakis looks good in the outfield corners, he has disappointed some that thought he might be able to handle CF (Rate2 of 83).
  • His .665 OPS for the month of June is slightly less horrible than his .627 overall OPS, but hardly suggests a nearing breakout.
  • He's hitting .232/.312/.315 overall.  And he's not a shortstop during the second dead ball era.  
  • By comparison, offensive drains Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar, even while failing to live up to their meager expectations, are each putting up a .700+ OPS.

So what's the problem?  Well, even a casual fan can see Markakis' complete inability to turn on a fastball.  What's especially ironic about this is that, before 2005, a big knock on Markakis was his inability to use the whole field.  In the past, Markakis pulled everything.  Now, he looks like he'd be late on a Mel Clark fastball.

Like many of you, I'm extremely disappointed.  I'll certainly cut him some slack; it's not his fault he's been forced into major league action well before he was ready.  But pretending the problem doesn't exist will only exasperate it. 

While a performance this bad necessarily dims future expectations, he's still capable of turning it around and continuing on the path of becoming an offensive cornerstone.  He's just not going to get there by setting a new standard for offensive futility against pitchers that are clearly out of his league.  The Orioles have little choice but to admit their mistake and send him back to Bowie.  Otherwise, they will continue to cost themselves runs and potentially valuable service time, all while Markakis continues to falter in his development.

Sorry for the negative vibe, folks, but I'd be doing a disservice to pretend the situation is any rosier. 

Commence caustic emails.  Then, check out the new Oriole Report.

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11 Responses to “Is There Any Hope For Slick Nick?”

  1. Nate said

    Don’t really have any points to make because I agree that having him up here was a mistake. I really just wanted to give you props on your Mel Clark reference.

  2. tank222 said

    Thanks for the link Mike. Heres hoping for a turn around for Markakis.

    http://theoriolereport.wordpress.com/

  3. Stu said

    I’ll admit that you are the only person I saw that said Markakis shouldnt be on the team opening day but I dont think we should send him down. I think hes probably learning more by being in the majors then by destroying the minors.

  4. kilbs said

    I was with you in my distaste for promoting Markakis, although I wanted him to get more experience in AA and also to save those precious years of pre-arbitration for when he’d actually be good.

    But here we are now. I’m actually not super disappointed in Nick’s performance. He has been walking 10% of the time (which I would expect to increase once he feels more confident taking close pitches with 2 strikes). Plus, he has posted the following lines:
    April: 558 OPS
    May: 667
    June: 665.

    V. Righties: 327/351/668
    V. Lefties: 243/242/486.

    Obviously, sample size caveats apply. At this point, I would sit him versus most (not all) lefties. Let him build his confidence and give Millar some ABs to enhance his trade value (if there is any).

  5. Mike said

    Stu-

    At this point, I think it’s a little presumptuous to assume he would destroy minor league pitching. I understand the argument that a guy can learn from his struggles, but I disagree in this situation, given exactly how bad Markakis is struggling.

    Kilbs-

    I agree that if you look hard enough, you can spot some upward trends in Nick’s performance. But when you’re talking about someone who has improved to post a .665 OPS this month, you are talking about someone that has no place in the major leagues.

    Also, IMO, I think any 22 year old that could have a significant impact on the future of your organization should be given every opportunity to hit against everybody. Players like Hank Blalock have famously grown out of severe platoon splits. And he didn’t do it by never facing lefties. Good catch though.

    Also, for the sake of other readers, I should point out that the batting lines Kilbs is utilizing are OBP/SLG/OPS, lest you get too excited.

  6. kilbs said

    I hear you on letting Nick play against lefties…just not all lefties. I do think Nick can break out of it, but I was guilty of thinking that perhaps Gibbons could break out of it, which I don’t think he ever will. Plus, I want to put Millar in circumstances to succeed to drive up his trade value.

  7. Eddie said

    ….I don’t think it’s just quite that clear cut…I actually see his performance less in numbers and more in his ABs…he has been striking out of late, and, I’ve seen him either bailing or open up too early…but, for the most part, he has been staying compact and behind the ball remarkably well esp. considering this long slump…all things considered, he does put together quality ABs for a young guy…I wonder how unlucky he’s been also…

    ..I sort of think of his call-up as being so premature, that his numbers are going to be statistically abberrational since he will be forced into a situation where he may have to change his game profoundly…sort of like Cabrera in his first year…I didn’t expect too much from Nick this year, at east in the first half…but, now that he’s taken his turn around the bigs, maybe we’ll see some improvement…it took Alex Rios several years to suddenly explode this year…up til this year, Jays fans were accepting the fact that he would never develop any power and become a high contact guy at best…

    …I just never think the development of youngsters is ever too predictable or linear…I wouldn’t bail out on Nick just yet…

  8. Eddie said

    ..also keep in mind that this stint might be the first time Nick has faced a significant period of failure and adjustment as a pro…it doesn’t matter who you are, every ballplayer needs to learn how to respond to those situations…maybe hitting the bigs, this is the first time, he had to really make an adjustment?…

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