As usual, the idea for this slideshow came from another night spent watching the clock count down to closing time at work.
Instead of thinking about (and enjoying) how Adam Jones and Nick Markakis complement each other, I thought I'd turn it into a competition, with the main goal being to determine who is the better overall baseball player.
Taking into account offensive production, as well as evaluating each Oriole's tools, including defensive prowess, I've discovered the clear winner...
Strictly based on numbers, this category has to go to Markakis.
I mean, they don't call him "Nick the Stick" for no reason. Or maybe that's just me who calls him that. Not really sure.
So far in four big league seasons, Markakis has accumulated 704 hits, nearly 180 hits per season. He's also averaged about 20 home runs and 90 RBI per year. Toss in his .298 career average, including two seasons over .300, and it seems a pretty logical choice.
Granted, Jones hasn't been in the league quite as long, but he's already shown the propensity to focus his game more on speed and power and not necessarily hitting for average.
Markakis has also taken up the Brian Roberts cause to revive the Orioles one double at a time, averaging over 40 two-baggers per season. While Jones may one day average in that range, the fact that Markakis has been putting up those types of numbers since day one makes this a pretty easy call.
Although Markakis has two 20-home run seasons to his credit, this category goes to Jones...ever so slightly. This may be one of the closest races though.
Markakis has shown the ability to knock the ball out of the park, as his 77 career home runs testify.
However, it's clear that Markakis clearly embraces his No. 3 spot in the lineup and focuses more on driving in runs, which he knows he doesn't need to hit home runs to do. Instead, he hits 40 or so doubles per year.
Jones showed his potentially prodigious power during his 2007 campaign, in which he hit 25 bombs at AAA Tacoma and then added two more dingers during his late-season call-up with the Mariners. Jones has the quick wrists and powerful forearms to hit 25 to 30 bombs per year.
If this category was based solely on power potential, Markakis would take it, but based on how he focuses his game, I think it's safe to say Jones may someday out-homer Markakis on a regular basis.
Easy, cheesy, one-two-threesy.
Maybe it's due to Markakis' overwhelming success as a pitcher, or maybe it's his intense work ethic. Either way, it's clear that Adam Jones will never have the critical batting eye of Markakis.
Nick has 259 walks in four seasons, an average of 65 per season. Jones averages about half that (32.5 to be exact) and only averaged about 30 per season in the minors.
Add in his three 100-plus-strikeout seasons in the minors, including a whopping 124 in A-ball in 2004, AND the 108-strikeout performance in his first year with the O's, and Markakis' gap widens.
Markakis does have two 100-plus-strikeout seasons to his name, but one came with 99 walks and the other in spite of a .300 season average.
Even though Markakis has a higher season total (18 in 2007), Jones has the capability to steal 20 to 30 bases per year.
I know, I know...he hasn't yet, and he may never do it, especially if his power continues to grow, but there's a reason that he'll hit No. 2 in the lineup, and it isn't his career .268 batting average (.291 in the minors).
Somehow, Jones has never stolen more than 16 bases in a season, but you can see his speed utilized another way, in taking the extra base. Jones already has 11 triples in his two major league seasons to Markakis' eight in four seasons.
Add in the fact that Markakis has about 12 pounds of extra bulk, and Jones gets the point for speed.
This one has to be the most competitive category.
I mean, how can you compete with a guy who can balance chairs on his chin?
But seriously. Both of these guys were standout athletes in many sports other than baseball, and just about every team who was considering drafting Markakis in 2003 saw him as one of the best pitching prospects available.
During the 2004 Olympic Games, Markakis spent some time on the mound for the Greek National team.
Markakis also made headlines a few years ago during spring training when manager Dave Trembley caught the right fielder taking grounders at shortstop and reportedly went berserk, fearing the Orioles' $66 million man would end up taking one to the noggin, resulting in Trembley's dismissal.
He did add, however, that Nick could probably play the position if needed.
Jones also was a two-way star and reportedly fought off repeated attempts from the Mariners organization to put him back on the mound. Off the mound Jones had enough athleticism to start 275 games at shortstop in the minor leagues before switching to the outfield.
This one is a tough call, but if forced to choose, I'd probably have to give the call to Markakis. Not many players could be a first-round talent as a pitcher AND a position player.
Dr. Jones, I presume...
You presume correctly.
While both players were two-way stars, Jones has the advantage of playing shortstop for nearly 300 games, gaining all the necessary range you could possibly need to play center field.
Indeed, there is a reason Markakis is stationed in right field while Jones patrols the middle.
If you factor in Jones' 2009 Gold Glove, it seems the critics agree that Jones is clearly the superior talent defensively (although any true O's fan can tell you Markakis clearly deserved back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2007-08).
Anyone who watched Markakis steamroll his way to the MLB lead in outfield assists in 2008 knows Nick the Stick could very well go by the moniker "Nick the Howitzer."
It definitely aids Markakis' cause that he used to be a hard-throwing pitcher. You can see it in his strikes from right field to third base.
Aside from taking the OA crown in 2008, Markakis finished second last season, fifth in 2007, and tied for seventh as a rookie in 2006.
Jones has been climbing up the chart among center fielders. His nine assists ranked him tied for fifth, helping give the O's the most productive outfield assist tandem. He can credit his skill to the years spent honing his infield throws as a shortstop.
Ultimately, though, Markakis' cannon is too much to even attempt to match.
Moxie. Poise under pressure. It.
Whatever you wanna call it, I wanna measure it, and to do it, I'm going to use Baseball Reference.com's so-called "Clutch Stats."
This set of statistics measures how well each player performs in pressure situations, such as runners in scoring position, performance in late, close games, tie games, games within one or two runs, and performance while ahead/behind.
These sets of stats tell the story, and it's one that favors Markakis. The later the game, and the more pressure-packed the situation, the better Markakis seems to get.
While ahead in games, Nick is a .277 hitter. While his team is behind, however, his average jumps to .295.
When a game is within three runs, Markakis is a .302 hitter. Within two runs, he jumps to .308, and when the game is within one run either way, Markakis holds a .314 average. Even better, when the game is tied, he hits over .320.
In case you were wondering about Jones' performance in each of these categories, his average is well below .300 and in most cases below .280.
With runners in scoring position and two outs, he can only muster a .228 average. In late games that are considered close, his average jumps, but only to a mere .236, and he has a 6:45 walk to strikeout ratio in that period.
This one goes to Markakis.
...Nick the Stick...or rather...Nick the Patient, Athletic, Cannon-armed, Clutch, Gold Glove-deserving right fielder.
Either way, the Orioles reap the benefits of having the game's most complete right fielder and one of the most athletic center fielders patrolling the lineup and outfield.
Congrats to you both!