Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Declining (?) Nick Markakis

By Mike Moritz

He should be entering his prime at the age of 27 but since about 2007, his second season, Nick Markakis has been on somewhat of a power decline. He matains a high batting average from year to year and though inconsistant, his career walk rate is a good 9.9. His pure hitting ability is shown through his astonishing career .329 BABIP. Overall, his .298/.368/.463/.361 slash line is good and is a clear .300 hitter.

But the issue Markakis's decling power numbers have been noted for a year or two. His home run total has dropped since 2007: 23, 20, 18, 12. His ISO has also dropped since 2008, it was the same in 2007 and 2008: .185, .185, .160, .138. I would like to take the time to observe how his home runs have landed in every year since 2007:





(All in courtesy of hittrackeronline.com)

So one huge thing to notice is that over the course of the this four year period, his home runs (apart from declining), instead of being spread pretty well across the field, are essentially only being pulled now. That might suggest that perhaps his mechanics are a little off. My guess is that he might be thinking that he can get more power by being a full-time pull hitter, which is a logical thought. But according to statcorner.com, Camdem Yards is actually better for right handed hitters (Markakis is a lefty hitter) and that would mean that he was probably better off going to the opposite field instead of trying to pull the ball. I will not be surprised if Markakis gains his power back becuase he decides to spread the ball all over the field just as he did earlier in his career.
Statistically speaking, here's what I have to say:

In 2010, Markakis's ground ball rate and fly ball rate were considerably down from 2009. His fly ball rate was a great 40.6% but fell to a below average 36.4%. He has always hit a lot of ground balls and 2009 was an average year for him, he had a 42.8% ground ball rate but that rose back to around his career mark, 45.7%. In total, his career fly ball and ground ball rates are 35.7% and 45.8%, respectively. This shows that perhaps last season was an average season for him.

His HR/FB rate has been dropping for three seasons, which goes back to the belief that just does not have as much power anymore. But 2008s 12.6% mark was due for some regression back to the average of 9.5%. The next year was below average, 8% and in 2010, it dropped to a mere 6.1% rate. 

I cease to believe that his power is on a decline so let's figure this out.

Yes, he is hitting less home runs, that is not a lie. A comparable year in terms of ground ball rate and fly ball is, ironically, his 2007 season, where his career high in home runs still stands at 23. 


Notice the very small overall difference between his ground ball rate from 2007 and 2010 and the same situation with his fly ball rates. I'm going to go ahead and say that a 2.1% difference between 11.6% and the average HR/FB 9.5% is small and more than likely is worth about one or two home runs. That said, going by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, I would say that Markakis should have 21 home runs in 2007. Keep in mind that projection is just a guesstimate and I could be way off (I probably am).

Now, let's say, going by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, that a 3.4%differential (the difference between his 2010 HR/FB rate and the average league average) is probably worth three or four home runs. So let's add four home runs (considering that Camdem Yards is great for home runs) to the 12 that Markakis hit this year. With the 16 dingers that he "should have hit" in 2010 (again, this has no proof and is just a ballpark estimate), it still does not seem quite right that he hit just 16 homers seeing that he had a small 1% drop in his fly ball rate.

There's nothing else to do but assume that he is actually on a power decline. My friends, this is the un-proven-proof that he is on a slight power decline. 

But before I end this post, you have to consider two huge factors.

First, he is just 27 years old. I don't think that a player can really decline before they reach their prime. 

Second, since his 2007 season, he has not hit less than 43 doubles. 43! And that's his low. Apart from that number, he has two seasons of 45 doubles and one season of 48 doubles. Entering his prime, you would think that he will start to put the ball over the wall more. In fact, I am seeing a break out year from Markakis. 

His Contact% jumped three points and to an astonishing 89.9 rate, a career high and he improved drastically against the slider last year, he had a .89 wSL/C after a -.07 mark. (wSL/C is a pitch value and it measures how many runs a player contributes when hitting against that pitch. The "C" measures how many runs over 100 plate appearances). 

You could essentially project a big year from Markakis just by seeing that he is 27 and is a consistent doubles machine. 

Anyways, Markakis is, by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, on a small home run decline but I still do not think that this is his career path. You just read my opinion on why I think he might actually get his power back and put together a break out year. 

Any of your thoughts? I know that the whole home run predicting was tedious so if you have any ways to actually project something like that please, please, please post it as a comment. 

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and hittrackeronline.com

No comments:

Post a Comment