The 2018 Atlanta Braves were chock full of surprises and the biggest surprise had to have been Nick Markakis breaking out and delivering what was by far his best season in a Braves uniform. Going into this season, the expectations for Markakis were rock bottom, as it was widely assumed that his time as a starting outfielder was coming to a close and his time as a Braves player would end with a whimper rather than any sort of excitement.
Instead, Markakis reached back into his bag of tricks and proved that he still had a good amount left in the tank.
Bottom line, what did he do in 2018? He had his best season since the prime of his career back in the late ‘00s/early ‘10s. Markakis came out of the gates absolutely flying at the plate as he hit .323/.389/.488 with 133 wRC+ and 10 home runs up until the All-Star break. He ended up earning his first career All-Star Game appearance and he absolutely deserved it. For the first half of the season, that hilarious Chip Caray-ism of “Pick your poison: Freeman or Markakis” was actually true, as teams were actually having to think about either pitching around or walking Freeman in order to deal with Markakis. He was that good in the first half of the year and it was truly amazing to witness.
Then the All-Star break came and went and Markakis’ production fell off of a cliff. He ended up hitting .258/.332/.369 with just 88 wRC+ and four home runs once he returned from the All-Star game festivities. Basically, the second half version of Nick Markakis was what we expected to see for this entire season and the fact that he still managed to finish the year with 2.6 fWAR is actually impressive.
Even with sub-par second half, he can still look back on 2018 with a lot of pride. According to fWAR this was a top-3 career year for him and he has the accolades of a All-Star game appearance and (shockingly enough) a Gold Glove as well. If that was the final season in a Braves uniform for Nick Markakis, then he’ll remember it very fondly.
Will Markakis be on the roster next year? If he does come back, it’ll be on a one-year deal for significantly less money than what he was getting paid during his four-year deal with the Braves. I cannot imagine that Nick Markakis is in the Braves’ primary plans for 2019 and if he returns in the same role as 2018, it’ll probably be because the Braves were forced to revert to Plan B or Plan C because things went sideways during the offseason. It’s likely that he won’t be back, but I wouldn’t rule out a return.
What is he going to do next year? He’ll definitely latch on somewhere, whether it’s Atlanta or with another team. Someone’s going to look at the season he had in 2018 and figure that it’ll be worth bringing him in. It’s likely that you’re going to see more of what he had to offer in the second half of 2018 but someone is going to be very happy if he can find a way to bring back his performance from the first half of 2018.
Highlight of 2018: Way back on Opening Day, the Braves went into the eighth inning down 5-2. They proceeded to score six runs in the next two innings, including a three-run walk-off dinger from Markakis himself to win it. I was there and I still remember laughing hysterically at this because Nick Markakis was the one who did it. Little did I know what he had in store for us this season.
Lowlight of 2018: Again, this season was a tale of two halves for Markakis and his second-half slide culminated in a September where he was just anemic at the plate. The final month of the season was not kind to Nick Markakis as he finished that month with just 83 wRC+, an Isolated Power number of just .040 and four extra-base hits all month -- all of them being doubles. Yikes.