Nick Markakis and the disappearing walk rate

Daniel Moroz has a really deep five part series about the differences in Nick Markakis’s approach at the plate from his stellar 2008 to his much less efficient 2009. Nick’s strikeout rate fell from 19 percent to 15.3 percent but was accompanied by a drop in walk rate from 14.2 percent to 7.9 percent. Not the kind of tradeoff you want to make.

Check out part five of the series here.

I’ve been trying to add something by looking at batting eye and selectivity and while Daniel’s analysis is incredibly comprehensive I think looking at batting eye and selectivity can add a little bit of evidence to his story.

What I do see in my numbers is that Nick’s selectivity rating dropped by quite a bit on 2-2 and 3-2 counts, which means that Markakis was more concerned with missing strikes than he was with avoiding balls in 2009 when compared to 2008. While he appears to have succeeded in cutting down his strikeouts it cost him far too many walks. Add in the fact that each walk is way more valuable than each strikeout and you have a problem.

Nick’s batting eye on 2-2 stayed about the same (and actually increased) from 2008 (1.48) to 2009 (1.53) so all of the difference can be attributed to selectivity (-.3 in 2008 to -.73 in 2009.) On the other hand his batting eye on 3-2 dropped considerably (1.7 in 2008 to 1.36 in 2009) as he swung at almost twice as many balls and less than ten percent more strikes.

These are all small samples but it seems to me that Daniel is on to something. His conclusions definitely sound plausible given the data. To return to 2008 form Nick must be more selective on two strike counts, even if it results in him striking out a bit more. He must also hope to see the ball better on full counts which might be a more difficult goal to achieve. Hopefully these are normal random variations and we’ll see a return to form in 2010 from one of the most promising young hitters in baseball.

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