The facts are there for everyone to see.
Nick Markakis hit .284 this year with 31 doubles, 15 homers, 73 RBIs and a .756 OPS.
His slugging percentage has dropped every year from 2008 on, from .491 to .453 to .436 to this year’s .406. His 31 doubles is much fewer than recent seasons when he had 48, 45 and 45. That .756 OPS is a career low.
It all started with a terrible start. Through the end of May, Markakis was batting just .249 with only four doubles, four homers, 17 RBIs and a .640 OPS.
But, apparently, Markakis was playing in some pain, at least at the end of the year. After he was removed in the last inning from the last game here is what Buck Showalter said of Markakis:
“He just couldn’t go anymore. You never see him not run down to first base on that last at-bat. He’s got a pretty deep bruise in his abdomen. That’s been going on for a while now, but he doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. Like I’ve been saying, professional integrity and the competition. He wants to be there. He played in his 160th game tonight, and probably about 30 of those he probably shouldn’t have played in, but that’s what people miss, the essence of what Nick’s all about. You can take your pick how many times he’s come up bleeding.”
Late in the year, when I asked Markakis how he sized up his season, he actually cited his durability ahead of his statistics.
“It is what it is,” Markakis said. “It’s had its ups and downs like everybody else. The biggest thing I got out of this year, you know, my main goal coming into this season was to stay healthy. Put yourself in position to be out on that field every day. Whatever it is at the end, it is what it is, there is no controlling that.
“My perspective, I’ve had a successful season in my eyes. I put myself in position to go out there and help my team every day. That’s all you can really do.”
Clearly, answering the bell every day is important to Markakis who did play in 160 games this year for the fourth time in the last five years and the one season that he came up short of that he played 157 games in 2008.
Markakis can be a lightning rod for fan criticism. I got an earful of that about him this year on my radio show. Some believe the Baltimore media doesn’t criticize him enough. I think one reason for that is every manager that speaks to us, from Dave Trembley to Juan Samuel to Showalter, raves about the guy, his approach and work ethic.
Some fans feel big stats need to come with the big contract he signed. He’s not a superstar and anything less is not good enough for a certain segment of the fan base.
He seems to have the respect of just about everyone in the game. But his stats have fallen off. Whether that was due to injury, feeling the pressure to produce and live up to his contract or other factors, I am not sure.
A lot of teams would gladly take a player that shows up every day and can be counted on, has his numbers, plays that level of defense and has some pop in his bat.
I don’t think it’s wrong to expect more offense next year from Markakis. That’s because he has done it before and we know it’s there. He has set a high standard for himself.
With his poor start this year he was never going to be able to end this year with 100 RBIs. Still, his final four months were more Markakis-like.
While expecting a lot from him, we also can’t forget what he does deliver. And he does it every day, every season.
What is your take on Markakis and his 2011 season?