Alex Avila: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJune 27, 2011

DENVER, CO - JUNE 19:  Catcher Alex Avila #13 of the Detroit Tigers backs up the plate against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on June 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Tigers defeated the Rockies 9-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There are many reasons why the Detroit Tigers are at the top of the American League Central standings.

They have an amazing one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. They have are getting MVP production from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. And Jhonny Peralta, Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila have come through with surprising seasons.

Avila was a fifth-round pick of the Tigers back in 2008 and was never considered a top prospect. He had a couple of good, but nothing spectacular years in the minor leagues before being called up to the Tigers in 2009.

Due to Detroit’s lack of offensive production behind the dish, Avila saw the lion’s share of the starts at catcher for the Tigers in 2010. Unfortunately, Avila tag-teamed with Gerald Laird to form one of the worst-hitting catching duos in the American League (0.6 WAR).

But 2011 has been a different story for Avila.

After hitting .228/.316/.340 with seven HRs in 333 plate appearances games in 2010, he is hitting .303/.373/.545 with 10 HRs in 246 PAs in 2011. He’s been worth over 2.5 wins to the Tigers so far, and if All-Star Game starters weren’t up to fans, Avila would be starting in Arizona.

While Avila’s overall production has changed for the better at the plate, his peripherals are almost the same as they were last season. It’s pretty interesting.

As you can see, not much has changed in Avila’s peripherals from 2010 to 2011. As a matter of fact, despite Avila’s success at the plate, he is walking about the same as he was last season and striking out more.

Where Avila has improved at the plate and one of the main reasons for his success in 2011, has been his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Avila had a .182/.289/.212 slash line against left-handed pitching last season with a .244 wOBA.

This season has been a vastly different story for Avila against left-handed pitching. Avila is hitting .277/.321/.489 against lefties with a .347 wOBA. In order for a left-handed batter to become an everyday player, they have to learn how to hit lefties and Avila has done that this season.

We can certainly expect some regression from Avila going forward. He won’t maintain a .365 BABIP throughout the season. I also don’t think his .242 ISO is going to last all season. To put that inflated ISO number in perspective, Brian McCann has averaged a .201 ISO throughout his career.

Baseball is an amazing game. One year a guy is a ham n’ egger and the next year the becomes an All-Star and I am writing over 400 words about his success.

Avila is having a great season so far and one of the big reasons the Tigers have enjoyed success in 2011.