It’s time to stop sleeping on Nick Markakis.
The 34-year-old outfielder is having what appears to be a career-year for the first place Braves. And he is doing it in style.
The 13-year veteran has always been a steady presence at the place. In seasons where he has played 147 games or more, his lowest hit total was 143 in 2006. And that was his rookie season. In an injury-shortened 2012, he tallied 125 hits in 104 games. Every other season, the veteran has been able to produce 161 hits or more. Not bad for someone who has yet to make an All-Star appearance.
That’s about to change.
Markakis is putting up monster numbers while contributing to one of baseball’s best offenses. As the month of June comes to an end, he sits atop the National League in hits at 104. The Braves are just over halfway through the season with 82 games played. The right fielder has a real shot at 200. So does his teammate Freddie Freeman, who is 4 hits back at 100. If both were to pass the 200 mark, they would be the first Braves duo ever to achieve that feat.
We are used to hearing All-Star and MVP consideration for Freeman. So why are we just now hearing the same about Markakis?
He has always flirted with batting .300 for a season. According to Baseball-Reference, his 162 game career average is .289. The two-time Gold Glove winner can play some outfield too. He is no Andruw Jones, but the guy gets a good jump on the ball and knows how to field off the wall.
In Baltimore, Markakis was overshadowed by center fielder Adam Jones. Jones was selected to four All-Star games while Markakis joined him in the Orioles’ outfield. Not to mention, playing in the AL East requires having a household name or posting gaudy numbers when going up against the likes of Boston and New York.
As Markakis hit a grand slam against the Cardinals Saturday to put the Braves up 7-0, I tried to think of another player of Nick’s caliber to have a career-year such as this at age 34. It is really hard to compare. Some names that stuck out from respondents on Twitter include Daniel Murphy and Josh Turner. But they were both a few years younger than Markakis when they were selected to their first All-Star game. Murphy is the closer comparison in numbers. Per Baseball-Reference, the second baseman’s 162 game career average is 179 hits. Nick’s is 182. But Markakis has consistently played in more games.
With the exception of his rookie season and an injury-riddled 2012, Nick has played in no fewer than 155 games. Murphy has only accomplished that three times in his 10 year career.
Again, Turner is not a fair comparison either. The Dodger infielder is a nice player, but he seemingly appeared out of nowhere in 2016. I’m sorry, but the 33-year-old doesn’t even have 1000 hits. According to Baseball-Reference, he currently sits at 763. Come talk to me when you want to discuss 2000. Markakis has 2156 and rising. He is essentially the only player 30 years or older to have a realistic shot at 3000. If he stays healthy and keeps pace, he just might make it.
Braves fans might point to their own hero and former MVP Terry Pendleton. The third baseman won NL MVP honors while playing for the Braves in 1991. He was 30 when he won the award. Amazingly, he wasn’t even selected to the All-Star game that year. Pendleton played 15 years in the bigs. He didn’t even get to 2000 hits. He had a two year span where he achieved MVP consideration. Other than that, he was known as a defensive player who wouldn’t kill you at the plate.
Markasis is having a remarkable season. But it’s unique. He has been a consistent presence for 12 years. This year is different. Whether it’s launch angle or just a groove, Markakis is finding a way to consistently do damage, not just hit for contact.
Just like many others, I have waited for a slump, a drought, something to indicate that this man’s numbers will plateau. It’s not going to happen folks. Sure, his average might drop. But I don’t see anyway that he ends the season under .300 at the plate. I also think he gets 200 hits.
You have to remember he is batting clean-up. Teams are sure to walk Freeman at times to get to Nick. As we witnessed Saturday, that doesn’t work out so well. However, if you pitch to Freddie and he gaps it for a double, here comes the NL hits leader to rope one down the line and bring in a run. It’s a catch-22 for Braves’ opposition.
At the end of June, Markakis leads the NL outfielders in All-Star voting. He leads Bryce Harper by nearly half a million. I don’t know of any player who deserves a first nod more than Nick. He is past due.
Get this man to the All-Star game, or beyond?