Statheads will scream at this. They’ll think $11 million per season is too much for a player who is 31 years old and has shown some decreasing numbers. But the Atlanta Braves need Nick Markakis. He’s just the type of player they need to reshape the starting lineup.
Markakis is a .290 career hitter. His on base percentage is .358 for his nine years in the majors. That’s pretty good. He’s never hit below .271, which was his average in 2013. Last season, Markakis was solid. He only had one bad month, when he hit .231 and had a .292 OBP in July. But the other months, his numbers were very good.
And the biggest thing about Markakis? He doesn’t strike out a lot.
After having the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, Markakis will represent the new-look Atlanta outfield. Sure, B.J. Upton might still be back, but it will help having someone like Markakis who makes solid contact.
Markakis struck out only 84 times in 710 plate appearances. While his power has decreased from his second season in 2007, his strikeouts have also gone down. In his last six seasons, Markakis has not struck out more than 100 times, and in all but one of those seasons he had over 700 plate appearances.
That’s another plus for Markakis – he has stayed pretty healthy. Markakis has played in 147 games or more in all but one of his seasons with the Orioles. He played in only 104 games in 2012.
Markakis is also solid against left-handed pitchers, something Heyward struggled with last season and in his career. Markakis hit .280 against southpaws in 2014, while batting .274 against right-handers. And in his career, Markakis has hit .288 against lefties and .291 against right-handed pitchers.
Heyward hit .169 against left-handed pitchers a year ago, and he has a .221 average in his career against lefties.
Markakis will be a great number two hitter for the Braves. He might have to hit first for a while, but that spot will eventually go to Jose Peraza, a young player who is expected to take over at second base and as the leadoff hitter sometime next summer.
There shouldn’t be a great drop off in defense in right field. Markakis might not make as many diving plays in right field as Jason Heyward, but he’s got a solid arm and has two Gold Gloves in his trophy case. So it will be an easier transition from the talented Heyward to have someone that plays right field well.
The Braves are in transition. They want different players, a different look. The last mix did not work. So Markakis is the type of player the Braves believe can put this team back on track. He’s coming home, and we all know they like that a lot. He’s also a veteran player, and the Braves needed a good veteran with a good clubhouse reputation. That’s been missing the last few seasons.
So the statheads will mock this. They may say Heyward would have been a better value, even at the outlandish price he will seek next winter when he becomes a free agent. But Markakis is a good fit for a team that is seeking a new identity.
There’s more to come, as the next few weeks will be busy for the new front office. But this is a very good move. When the Braves signed Terry Pendleton, 24 years ago to the day, they brought in a 31-year old veteran who could be the face of the new-look Braves. That’s what this signing is – a chance to have Markakis lead the new-look team into a new stadium in two years. Let’s hope the team gets the same positive results it got when Pendleton joined the team many years ago.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Markakis a solid addition for Braves
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