Nick Markakis: Quietly catching up to some baseball legends

FILE – The Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis’ will tie Babe Ruth when he hits his next double. Quietly, Markakis is putting together hitting numbers that will put him in elite company in many statistics. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – If I was to tell you there was currently a player in Major League Baseball who is one double shy of Babe Ruth, eleven hits ahead of Carlton Fisk on the all-time list and 22 RBI ahead of Rod Carew, you’d probably assume I’m talking about someone like Mike Trout, Yadier Molina or Bryce Harper . Well, those would all be great guesses, but they’d also be incorrect. Want a hint? He’s a guy you’re extremely familiar with here in the National League East. Nope, not Robinson Cano. Think closer to home. If you guessed Nick Markakis, pat yourself on the back. That’s right, the 36 year old outfielder continues to climb the all-time lists and find himself surrounded by some pretty elite company. As a matter of fact, who a pair of doubles in last night’s thrilling 7-6 win over Washington, Markakis is now one double shy of tying The Babe, George Herman Ruth, for 58th place all-time.

Since his change of heart, Markakis has appeared in 12 games for the Braves. He’s hit safely in nine of those contests, batting .353 with six doubles, one homer and six RBI. But yet, some fans were quick to dismiss his return as anything significant. For some reason, Markakis is quite the lightning rod when it comes to a certain section of the fan base. While he’s not your typical cleanup hitter when it comes to his power numbers, it’s hard to argue how effective he’s been in that role. In 329 career starts, Markakis is a lifetime .282 hitter in the fourth spot in the order, with 91 doubles, three triples, 25 homers and 175 RBI. Again, I understand the argument of him not having the power you’d expect from current cleanup hitters like Kyle Schwarber, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Soler, Nolan Arenado or Matt Olson. I’m certainly not arguing that he’s on the same level when it comes to the power potential. However, what you also don’t get is the extreme strikeout totals that most of those guys bring. As a matter of fact, Markakis’ highest strikeout total in a season was 113 (in 697 plate appearances) as a 24 year old in 2008. Over the course of his 15 year Big League career, Markakis has averaged approximately 90 punch outs per season. In addition, there have been a number of years where his walk totals have been within eight of his strikeout totals. Essentially, the guy knows how to get on base. He knows how to put the ball in play. And most importantly, he doesn’t strike out.

While I’ve included Markakis’ name among a number of Hall of Famers, don’t look at this as a piece to get him into Cooperstown. What I think needs to be highlighted is how steady and consistent a ballplayer Markakis is. He’s one of the hardest working players I’ve ever had a chance to cover and keeps himself in tremendous shape. And believe me when I tell you, he means so much to so many guys in that clubhouse when it comes to the veteran leadership he brings to the field every day. While this is likely to be his last go-round in a Braves uniform, it’s time to start appreciating just how vital a role he serves to this team, both on and off the diamond.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.

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