Just a quick musing on my part:
Before you flame me, consider this: Yes, Huff had a down year, but he still had 73 RBIs at the time of his trade. Opposing pitchers started the season knowing that the 2008 edition of Huff had had 32 dingers and was fifth in the league in OPS.
And yeah, Huff was off the pace for much of 2009, but players go through ups and downs all the time, and he had enough good stretches early in the year that pitchers had to respect him somewhat. So there's little doubt that in the typical Orioles' 2009 lineup of 3-Markakis, 4-Huff, they were throwing better stuff Nicky's way.
No, I don't think this accounts for all of Nicky's lowered numbers (AJ's declining average and time on the DL hurt Nicky's RBI chances) but I think it's a contributing factor.
Part of getting Nicky back to form next year will involve Andy finding someone with a big bat to protect him in the lineup.
Stats, for those of you who are so inclined.....
Aubrey Huff was traded on August 17th. Nick's stats before and after that date, courtesy B-R.com:
|Apr 6, 2009 to Aug 17, 2009||BAL||118||117||48-70||527||480||70||146||39||1||15||84||39||0||77||3||0||5||9||9||3||2||.304||.357||.483||.840|
|per 162 games||163||161||724||660||97||201||54||2||21||116||54||0||106||5||0||7||13||13||5||3|
|Aug 18, 2009 to Oct 4, 2009||BAL||43||43||16-27||184||164||24||42||6||1||3||17||17||0||21||0||0||3||0||3||3||0||.256||.321||.360||.680|
|per 162 games||162||162||694||618||91||159||23||4||12||65||65||0||80||0||0||12||0||12||12||0|
Note that the only statistically significant offensive category that's higher in the second stretch is BB/162 games. It's 20% higher. Nicky's numbers all went down except this walk rate. It's not like he was getting a bunch of IBBs, but pitchers weren't afraid of losing him to pitch to the next guy either.