Signing Nick Markakis Would Be a Mistake for the Giants

By: Ben Leonard

The Giants, along with the Braves and the Blue Jays, are purportedly contenders for the services of veteran outfielder Nick Markakis. He had dinner on Monday night with top Braves’ officials, including manager Fredi Gonzalez. He grew up in Georgia, so the Braves may be a home-town choice for the outfielder. However, if the Giants truly have interest, they would likely be able to pay more for Markakis given their recent track record and larger market. The left-handed hitting outfielder would likely command a contract somewhere in the realm of four years and fifty million dollars. If the Giants paid this amount for such a middling player, it would be an egregious mistake.

Specifically, Gregor Blanco is an adept left fielder. As detailed in my offseason preview, he is more than adequate at the position. He has been very similar to Markakis in terms of production in all facets, despite a much lower salary and perceived value. Blanco was just tendered a contract for 2015 for approximately 3.5 million dollars, despite being worth over eleven million in 2014, whereas Markakis was worth roughly thirteen million. For some context, here is a blind look at both Blanco and Markakis in 2014.

G

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

BsR

Off

Def

WA

Player A 155 8.7% 11.8% 0.111 0.299 0.276 0.342 0.386 0.325 106 -2.7 2.1 -2.5 2.5
Player B 146 9.2% 17.3% 0.115 0.311 0.260 0.333 0.374 0.317 107 0.1 3.6 1.7 2.0

Excluding misleading stats like home runs and RBI’s, Player A and Player B were roughly the same offensively and defensively. Any differences are negligible, except for the strikeout rate. Strikeouts are unjustly perceived as an indicator of poor hitting Specifically, MVP Mike Trout struck out at at a 26.1% rate.

Player A is Markakis, and Player B is Blanco. Markakis has been known as a solid defender, winning two Gold Gloves in the past two seasons, but as one can see, that prowess is vastly overrated. Blanco was better defensively in the Def WAR component, and he has invaluable experience patrolling the cavernous AT&T Park that Markakis lacks. Markakis has made the routine play very well in his career with the Orioles, converting 99.7% of these opportunities into outs, according to FanGraphs; however, his lack of speed makes his defense clearly inferior to that of Blanco. In addition, Markakis did not have to run great distances to field fly balls at the bandbox that is Camden Yards.

RngR (Range)

Blanco

Markakis

2013 7.9 -11.6
2014 -0.8 -1.6

Markakis clearly has the inferior range in the outfield, highlighted by 2013’s comparison. Markakis does hold the advantage in arm strength, but the two characteristics generally should balance each other out. Markakis and Blanco are very similar both offensively and defensively, but Blanco’s defensive strength plays up more at AT&T Park. Range is more important at a spacious ballpark, whereas arm strength is more important in a bandbox. Hence, Blanco would be stronger for the Giants on defense at AT&T Park rather than the plodding Markakis.

As previously illustrated, Markakis and Blanco are very similar offensively, posting nearly identical 106 and 107 wRC+’s, with the latter holding the slight edge. The only true difference is Markakis’s name recognition, and misleading rudimentary statistics. Markakis hit fourteen home runs in 2014, but he was aided by a short porch in right field. He has hit thirty-seven in the last three years, all displayed here courtesy of FanGraphs:

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 10.49.19 AM

 

Levi’s Landing will not be as nearly conducive to pull power as Camden Yards was for Markakis, unless your name is Barry Bonds. As one can see below, three of his fourteen homers in 2014 would have fallen short at AT&T Park, not accounting for the harsh wind and moist air in the park. (Courtesy of ESPN’s HomeRun Tracker)

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 10.53.26 AM

Markakis would be a prodigal expenditure for Brian Sabean and the Giants, who are better suited to save roughly ten million dollars per year on Blanco, who would produce essentially the same results and reliability. Furthermore, the Giants would lose championship experience and veteran leadership in signing Markakis to start over Blanco, adding a player who has only seven games of playoff experience.

In summary, Gregor Blanco is currently the best feasible option for the Giants in the present and future.

Stats and info courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and ESPN

Cover Image: By Keith Allison (Flickr: Nick Markakis) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Works Cited:

1. “Hitter detail for Markakis, Nick,” ESPN, accessed December 3, 2014,  http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2014_4102&type=hitter

2. Mike Petriello, “What Are We Missing About Nick Markakis?,” FanGraphs, published December 3, 2014, accessed December 3, 2014, http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/what-are-we-missing-about-nick-markakis/