When an offense is rolling as well as the Detroit Tigers‘ has recently (40 runs over past seven days, third in MLB), it’s easy to gloss over the flaws in the lineup because the machine is delivering results even without the additional contributions. Winning fixes everything, as they say, and the Tigers have been doing just that.
Conversely, however, when said teams get a reality check — as Detroit did on Wednesday in a loss against the Washington Nationals — it only serves to push into the spotlight those weak spots in the lineup.
After all, you can’t have an off-day when you’ve been off all season, and that’s exactly what Alex Avila has been for the Tigers.
It took the team being held to under two runs for the first time in almost three weeks (since April 20) to really do it, but of all of the players on the team that could have taken the goat role in the 3-1 loss, it was the catcher.
Coming off a weekend series where he delivered his fair share of heroics and looking like things were about to turn around, Avila delivered a disappointing 0-for-3 day on Wednesday, putting a halt on his quest to reach the Mendoza line. Not only that, but he also led his team by stranding a total of five runners on base in his four opportunities, with only a walk to his name in the evening’s worth of work.
Though you could look at it as a one-game sample and cut the No. 7 hitter some slack, it’s much harder to do so with his .186/.263/.337 triple slash over 95 PA, a sample size at which trends begin to normalize.
And for Avila, the trends are not pretty.
Though the power is still somewhat there (four home runs, .151 ISO), he’s swinging and missing more than ever (11.4 percent) and putting up a nearly out-of control 30.5 percent strikeout rate despite pitchers attacking him with first strikes (61.1 percent, career-high).
The 26-year old is simply not making enough contact at a career-low 70 percent, and even when he can get his bat on the ball, it’s not being hit particularly well (19.6 percent line drives, four-year low).
Sure, luck likely has its grubby hands in this (.226 BABIP, a career-low), but even when it normalizes towards his career .318 rate, his batting average is still more likely to resemble the .228 he put up in 2010 rather than than .295 he had in his breakout, 4.6 fWAR season in 2011. Then again, it’s not as if his 22.2 percent HR/FB rate is particularly sustainable either, so …
In short, that kind of replacement level performance is a far cry from what the Tigers are expecting from him in 2013. Though the team is doing just fine without him adding only the occasional good day at the plate thus far, his lack of production is only going to become more amplified if the team ends up on another down stretch.
There’s still time for him to turn things around yet, but Avila might want to do it before people really start to notice, that’s all.