If there’s one hitter on the Baltimore Orioles roster who can’t afford to get off to a slow start, it’s Nick Markakis. The pressure is already mounting on the 30-year-old. Coming off by far the worst year of his career, Markakis has to keep hitting the ball like he was in Spring Training not only for his own good, but for the good of the Orioles’ lineup.
Markakis is the lead-off hitter for Buck Showalter, and with the absurd amount of power that’s behind him in the lineup he’s got to get on base consistently. The Orioles are going to blast a whole lot of home runs — there’s no doubt about that — but the question is how many of those home runs are going to be with guys on base. It’s no secret that the Orioles are going to live and die by the long ball, and if Markakis has a solid year it will go a long way in assuring that Baltimore doesn’t do the latter.
Markakis doesn’t need to hit a lot of home runs. Over the course of his career he’s proven that he’s not a big home run guy, but if he can start spraying doubles all over the field like he did in previous years, the Orioles will be in a lot better position offensively. Last season Markakis still hit .271, but a lot of his hits were singles — he posted a career low .356 slugging percentage.
Not only will hitting doubles set up the hitters behind him, but it’ll also help drive people in. What makes the Orioles’ lineup so dangerous isn’t just the sheer power in the middle of the lineup; it’s that batters one through nine can hurt you. In the middle of the game, Markakis will have plenty of chances to hit with guys like Ryan Flaherty, Matt Wieters or Jonathan Schoop already on base and a double in the gap scores runners from first base most of the time. Having Markakis hit 30-40 doubles this season like he has in other years will really limit how pitchers can pitch around Baltimore’s offense.
All signs point to Nick Markakis bouncing back in 2014, but the first step is getting off to a hot start.