In order for a baseball team to contend for and win the World Series, they need top production not only from their best players, but from the entire lineup as a whole. And when it comes to the Detroit Tigers, catcher Alex Avila can offer the most upside for this Tigers offense.
Historically, catchers are usually one of the weakest hitting positions in a lineup. This is certainly understandable with the constant wear and tear they experience while playing such a demanding position throughout a 162 game season. Also, they have to not only worry about their at-bats, but have to have a game plan for every one of their pitchers that could enter the game.
They are the general on the field, and these other responsibilities can sometimes cut into their production at the plate. Therefore, any significant production coming from this position is a huge plus to a lineup.
That is why Avila needs to have a repeat performance of his 2011 campaign when he had a .295 batting average, hit 19 homers and 33 doubles, and drove in 82 runs. That signature season landed him an All-Star game appearance, a Silver Slugger Award, and he finished 12th in AL MVP voting.
Unfortunately for Detroit, Avila has struggled mightily in the two years following that breakout season, averaging only 10 homers, 47 RBIs, and posting a significantly lower batting average of .235. Possibly the most concerning stat is that Avila, who appeared in 141 games in 2011, has averaged 109 games the last two seasons.
However, there is plenty of incentive for him to perform this year beyond wanting to help his team win a championship. He recently signed a one-year, $4.15 million contract with a lot of incentives, such as another All-Star Game appearance or bringing home another Silver Slugger Award. Also, finishing in the top 15 in MVP voting would bring in more cash for the sixth year player.
Players usually perform better under the pressure of a one-year contract because it gives them a chance to show what true value they really have. Add the incentives to gain some honors this season, and there is no reason to believe that Avila will not be doing everything in his power to bring his stats up to 2011 standards.
He is already part of a lineup that features noticeable hitters like Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, yet his value of production from a catcher cannot be overlooked. He might be the difference between the Tigers falling short in the playoffs again or finally bringing home another title to Motor City.