Few players in Major League Baseball were more surprising last season than Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila. While Avila's numbers were by no means historic—the 25 year old held a .295 average with 19 home runs and 82 RBI—they were pretty impressive for a player who hit .228 in 2010 while splitting time with Gerald Laird.
In 2011, Avila came out strong, especially in the first half of the season. The catcher was able to beat out New York's Russell Martin for the starting spot in the MLB All-Star Game in only his first year of starting.
The second half of the season was not as illustrious. This culminated with one of the biggest postseason collapses a player can have. In 11 postseason games, Avila hit at a .073 mark, only accumulating an OBP of .116. For a player that had so much influence on the Tigers' success in the regular season, it can be argued that his poor performance in the postseason cost Detroit a chance at a World Series appearance.
It also left fans wondering which Alex Avila they'd see in 2012. While hitters go through cold streaks just as often as they get hot, the timing in which Avila did this has made fans question whether or not his mental toughness correlates with his physical prowess.
While Avila's postseason collapse will sit in the minds of Detroit's fans until the catcher comes up big, here are a few reasons why No. 13 is destined to have a better year in 2012 than he did in 2011.
New Backup Catcher
Sure, last year, Avila had Victor Martinez. But, really, Victor was only a backup by title and nothing more. Avila played 141 games for the Tigers last season and spent a great deal of time behind the plate in August and September without getting a true break.
The fact is that catcher is a tough position to play, and it's even tougher when your manager isn't giving you a night off.
Avila played nearly 40 more games in 2011 than he did the previous year, so it's not too much of a stretch to believe that he may have simply been gassed out.
Gerald Laird is a solution to this problem. The Tigers have brought in a guy who, while he isn't a hero at the plate, is a very solid defensive catcher and is a nice substitution when Leyland wants to give Alex the night off.
For many people who have watched the Tigers play with Jim Leyland running the show, it's clear that, like it or not, Leyland has "his guys." These are guys that Leyland will play frequently, regardless of how well they're actually doing. Laird is one of these guys.
While Laird won't see a great deal of playing time, he will get enough to bring down the number of games that Avila is playing catcher.
Avila is Showing Steady Improvement
At 25 years old, Avila is about to enter his prime. His numbers reflect this.
His stats took a drastic jump from 2010 to 2011. His average went from .228 in 2010 to .295 in 2011. The most impressive stat, though, is his on slugging percentage, which jumped from .340 to .506. Look for these numbers to continue to grow in 2012.
Projected 2012 Statistics
.305 AVG, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 120 SO, .394 OBP