He missed 58 games last season, but in the 104 in which he did play, Nick Markakis had a pretty good season with the bat. He hit .298 with 28 doubles, 13 homers and 54 RBIs in 420 at-bats, the fewest of his career.
Markakis was on a pace for 83 RBIs, which would have been his most since driving in 101 in 2009. He posted an OPS last season of .834, his highest since a figure of .897 in 2008.
But should Markakis remain in the leadoff spot in the batting order?
He certainly thrived in that role last year. Over 54 games he hit .335 with five homers, 28 RBIs, a .390 OBP and .879 OPS.
But was Markakis a batter who thrived because he was moved atop the order or just a good hitter who can produce anywhere you put him in the lineup? I’m inclined to go with the latter, that he’s just a good hitter who can produce anywhere.
As you might expect, at FanFest, Markakis said where he hits doesn’t matter to him.
“It wasn’t any different (batting leadoff). Just another spot in the lineup. One thing that I could gain from it, I swung a little more. I was a little more free swinging. Somebody had to fill the spot. Glad I was successful at it. It doesn’t matter where I bat. Guys (opponent pitchers) know who I am,” he said.
As an aside, did you realize that Markakis has two 100-RBI seasons, four years of 40 or more doubles and six seasons of batting .290 or above - but he’s never made an All-Star team?
But getting back to the topic at hand, Markakis had never hit leadoff in the majors until last July. His best spot - according to the stat sheet - is batting second. His career average is .313 with an OPS of .873 when batting second.
Where Markakis hits will also be influenced, of course, by others batting around him. If Brian Roberts can return to full health, he could also return to the top of the order. Maybe Buck Showalter will keep Nate McLouth atop the order. He also may want to avoid having back-to-back hitters from the left side of the plate and that could impact where Markakis hits.
But the numbers show that Markakis was extremely effective in the leadoff spot last year. Over his career, his best spot has been batting second.
What are your thoughts? Where should Markakis bat this season? What kind of season to you expect him to have in 2013?