During yesterday’s “Wall to Wall Baseball” show on MASN, a viewer asked the expert panel - comprised of Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and yours truly - whether Nick Markakis should lead off next season.
It’s never easy to discuss the lineup without knowing the composition of the 25-man roster. If the Orioles re-sign Nate McLouth, he figures to bat first against right-handers. If they re-sign Brian Roberts, he immediately becomes a candidate to move atop the order.
The Orioles were 60-48 with McLouth leading off this season, 17-17 with Markakis, 8-9 with Roberts, 0-2 with Manny Machado and 0-1 with Nolan Reimold.
What does it all mean? Probably nothing, but I wanted to mention it anyway.
Markakis is a career .329/.375/.441 hitter in 88 games when batting first. He posted a .319/.352/.368 line in 34 games this season. He’s never attempted a stolen base from that spot in the order.
He isn’t a prototypical leadoff guy, but he does get on base. And how often does a leadoff hitter actually bat first in an inning?
Yes, at least once.
My response yesterday included how the Orioles must find out which Markakis they’re getting in 2014. If his power returns and he’s driving in runs, he should bat lower in the order. If he’s going to be a singles hitter, he should receive more consideration at the top.
Markakis batted .270/.330/.374 against right-handers this season, and .274/.325/.326 against left-handers. Not much of a difference there. But he batted .253/.322/.300 in the second half after posting a .283/.333/.394 line before the All-Star break.
Markakis hit a career-low 10 home runs, and only three after May. He batted .336/.391/.526 in May, .229/.268/.305 in June, .305/.374/.326 in July, .221/.284/.269 in August and .255/.325/.314 in September. His on-base percentage was higher than his slugging percentage in each of the last three months.
The 2014 season is a crucial one for Markakis, who turns 30 in November and is reaching the end of his six-year, $66.1 million contract. He’s going to be paid $15 million next summer, the same as this season.
The Orioles hold a $17.5 million option on Markakis’ contract in 2015, with a $2 million buyout. It’s hard to imagine them exercising it if he doesn’t crank up the production.
Why did Markakis struggle for most of this season? Here’s my interview with him, conducted prior to the final game.