There’s one Oriole who is assumed to be able to do no wrong by many in Baltimore despite regularly underperforming in his tenure in black and orange. Before I reveal who this is, let’s look over the numbers of three Orioles blindly, without saying who they are but by simply looking at the stats.
Player A: .271 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, .356 slugging percentage, 24 doubles, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, 1 stolen base, -0.1 WAR
Player B: .297 batting average, .370 on-base percentage, .436 slugging percentage, 45 doubles, 12 home runs, 60 RBI, 7 stolen bases, 2.2 WAR
Player C: .300 batting average, .362 on-base percentage, .485 slugging percentage, 43 doubles, 23 home runs, 112 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 4.2 WAR
It’s pretty clear that the best player is player C, although player B is no scrub either. Player A is basically replaceable. Any guesses to whom each stat line belongs?
If you guessed that they are all previous seasons that right fielder Nick Markakis has had, than you are right! Player A was Markakis in 2013, while the stats from player B is his 2010 campaign. Player C was Markakis in 2007, his second season in the big leagues.
Markakis used to be one of the young stars in the game after averaging over 45 doubles and 20 homeruns a season from 2007-2009 with an average of exactly 100 RBI. Baseball-reference.com and ESPN.com even gave Markakis the highest WAR in the entire American League in 2008. Heading into the 2010 season, he was only 26 years old and looked ready to take the next step into becoming a superstar.
Unfortunately, after that the bottom began to fall out for Markakis. He hasn’t had more than 15 home runs or 73 RBI since then.
He even stopped hitting his doubles. Early in his career he was routinely among the league leaders in doubles but his number of doubles in a season has decreased every year since 2010, from 45 to 31, then down 28 before settling at a career-low 24 last season. His WAR in 2013 was -0.1 which means he performed like a backup.
Markakis made $400,000 when he had the 2007 statistics, $7.1 million with the 2010 statistics, and $15.35 million in 2013 after he signed a 6-year $66.1 million deal in January of 2009. 2014 is the last guaranteed year of his current contract and he will again make $15.35 million. It is especially surprising to see his regression because typically players perform at a higher level as they reach their late twenties.
There is a $17.5 million mutual option for 2015 with a $2 million buyout for 2015, but even if the pre-2010 Markakis resurfaces, the Orioles are unlikely to pay him $17.5 million. If the Orioles are going to be competitive in 2014 Markakis needs to play better, if not for the Orioles, for himself heading into a contract year.
Heading into 2014, Markakis will be on the wrong side of 30, and will be coming off career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, home runs, and stolen bases. There is not a strong market for aging corner outfielders with little speed or power, so if Markakis wants to earn another multi-year deal he will need to show he can still play at high level.