Consistency meter: Nick Markakis

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Markakis rounding the bases after a home run. Can we expect more of this in ’09? (Icon/SMI)

In the first edition of Consistency Meter I looked at consistent producer Aramis Ramirez last week and concluded that he might undergo a regression in 2009 after five consecutive seasons of high production. That conclusion was unforeseen by most everybody (including me), showing that you can never be sure of any player regardless of how consistent he has been in the past.

In that vein, we will examine another “consistent producer” today. This time it will be… Nick Markakis.

Background

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | AVG   | HR | RBI | R   |	SB |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2006 |  22 | Orioles | 491 | 0.291 | 16 |  62 |  72 |  2 |
| 2007 |  23 | Orioles | 637 | 0.300 | 23 | 112 |  97 |	18 |
| 2008 |  24 | Orioles | 595 | 0.306 | 20 |  87 | 106 |	10 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+

Markakis will be 25 at the start of the 2009 season, so there is no reason to believe he will fall off because of his age. If anything, you would boost his stats slightly as he nears his prime years with more major league experience. Markakis has also never experienced a major injury.

Looking at his surface stats for the last three years, you see that from his rookie season in 2006 to 2008 he has basically put up the same numbers. His averages over those years: .299 batting average, 20 home runs, 87 RBI, 92 runs and 10 stolen bases

Markakis can hit for average, his bat has decent pop, and he can wreck some havoc on the base paths. Let’s see if we can expect him to increase his production in any of those areas. We will start with the pop.

Power skills

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR_FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF/FB% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| 2006 |  22 | Orioles | 491 | 16 |  11 |    14 |     10 |     11 | 3.6 |     27 |
| 2007 |  23 | Orioles | 637 | 23 |  18 |    12 |     10 |     10 | 0.5 |     35 |
| 2008 |  24 | Orioles | 595 | 20 |  20 |    13 |     13 |     13 | 0.7 |     31 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth a couple of minutes to learn them.

Markakis’ home run totals have been pretty much aligned with what his True Home Run (tHR) numbers predict. In fact in 2008, tHRs predicted 20 home runs and Markakis hit exactly that! If you read my Aramis Ramirez article, you probably remember my “food metaphor’” that classified the two types of home run hitters. Namely, either a hitter hits a lot of fly balls, or a high percentage of his fly balls go over the wall. Looking at the above chart, we see that Markakis does not hit a lot of fly balls and only an average percentage of his fly balls go for home runs. Markakis, therefore, should not be classified as a home run hitter.

Unless he alters his approach at the plate to a more fly ball oriented one, Markakis will never become that slugger some expect him to develop into.

+----------+-------+------+-----+--------+-----+-----+--------+-----+
| LAST     | FIRST | YEAR | AB  | OF/FB% | FL% | LD% | IF/FB% | GB% |
+----------+-------+------+-----+--------+-----+-----+--------+-----+
| Markakis | Nick  | 2006 | 491 |     25 |   5 |  16 |      2 |  51 |
| Markakis | Nick  | 2007 | 637 |     29 |  10 |  14 |      2 |  45 |
| Markakis | Nick  | 2008 | 595 |     24 |  16 |  12 |      2 |  46 |
+----------+-------+------+-----+--------+-----+-----+--------+-----+

Looking at the breakdown of his batted ball types further, we see he is not going in the slugger direction. He is still primarily a groundball hitter with a high percentage of “fliners.” (A fliner is a mix of a fly ball and line drive, the kind of ball that either falls in the gap for a single or double or goes right to the outfielder and you say the hitter got robbed.) League average fliner rate is 11 percent, so Markakis has become above average in that department. As a result, he is now below average in outfield fly ball percentage (OF/FB%).

So while all of these fliners are good for his batting average, they do not do much do anything for his home run numbers. It would take a conscious effort on Markakis’ part to hit more fly balls to get his home run numbers up. The result of hitting more fly balls would a be a decreased batting average, so every approach has its drawbacks.

The bottom line is that unless Markakis can increase his home run per fly ball percentage (HR/FB), he is never going to become a 30 home run hitter. The possibility of that happening remains open, though, because he has still not reached his prime power years. Looking at his Raw Power (RAW) and True HR/FB percentage (tHR/FB) in the first table, we see a slight increase in both, which is promising. If those stats continue to climb in 2009 and in subsequent years as I expect them to—albeit not by much—Markakis can potentially hit about 25 home runs in 2009 and possibly more in years beyond.

Contact skills

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  22 | Orioles | 491 | 0.291 | 0.287 |  85 | 0.315 |  0.322 |  20 |     26 |      38 |
| 2007 |  23 | Orioles | 637 | 0.300 | 0.288 |  82 | 0.335 |  0.330 |  18 |     23 |      29 |
| 2008 |  24 | Orioles | 595 | 0.306 | 0.290 |  81 | 0.351 |  0.330 |  21 |     24 |      24 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------

Markakis’ True Batting Averages (tBA) have been fairly close to his actual batting average and very consistent on a year-to-year basis. The .10 disparity between the two—tBA and actual BA—can be attributed to the slight difference in his Marcels BABIP (mBABIP) and his actual BABIP. Not much going on there. Maybe Markakis’ batting average will come down a few points in 2009. No big deal.

Speed skills

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+------+-----------+-------------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | SB | SBA | SBO%  | SBA% | SB%  | FAN_SPEED | FAN_BALLOTS |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+------+-----------+-------------+
| 2006 |  22 | Orioles | 491 |  2 |   2 | 0.264 |    1 |  100 |        70 |          25 |
| 2007 |  23 | Orioles | 637 | 18 |  24 | 0.258 |   13 |   75 |        68 |          57 |
| 2008 |  24 | Orioles | 595 | 10 |  17 | 0.297 |    8 |   59 |        69 |          72 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+------+-----------+-------------+

Markakis has never ran wild on the base paths, but has put up double-digit steals the past two seasons. He has been ranked about the same by the fans who voted for Tangotiger’s Fan Scout Report, but in reality has had varied success stealing. In 2007 Markakis stole bases at a somewhat disappointing 75 percent clip. Then in 2008 he was successful on only 59 percent of his attempts. That is atrocious!

Rightfully so, Markakis attempted to steal at a lesser rate last year than in 2007, probably when manager Dave Trembley saw he was getting thrown out at about the same rate he was stealing successfully. Markakis did get into more stealing opportunities in 2008, mostly because of his increased walk rate (8.7 percent in 2007, 14.3 percent in 2008) which kept his steals total in double digits, barely.

Markakis is still young and reasonably fast (assumed from his great fielding numbers), so I am expecting him to be more successful at stealing bases in 2009. I am concerned, though, that he will be seeing the green light less. A total of about 10 steals again seems right; anything from 10 to 13 would not surprise me. Just don’t think Markakis is good at stealing because, surprisingly, he is not.

Final thoughts

To sum things up, I expect much of the same from Markakis in 2009. Perhaps a couple more home runs are on the way, but I do not expect any sweeping changes to occur. The stats I predict are a .292 batting average with 24 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Draft accordingly!

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