Last night, Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila chipped in a two-run home run in an 8-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. It was important not only because Avila has been struggling, but because it marked the first time of the season where a Tigers hitter other than Victor Martinez belted a home run from the left side of the plate.
Heading into the season, the Tigers knew that they would be light on left-handed hitting after dealing Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, but they have even less than they anticipated. The organization knew that they could count on the switch-hitting Martinez to have a productive year, but they were crossing their fingers that Avila and Andy Dirks could have comeback seasons and help pick up some of the slack.
Now that Dirks is on the DL, Avila and Martinez’s only left-handed companions are shortstop Andrew Romine, a light-hitting switch-hitter, and career .231 hitter and utility man Don Kelly. Martinez is the only one of the four who has been providing the Tigers with consistent offense.
In fact, the biggest reason why there are still whispers about the Tigers possibly being interested in signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew after the June draft, is most likely because of his left-handed bat. Romine and reserve infielder Danny Worth can certainly match Drew defensively, but there is no way that they could match his veteran bat.
One may be tempted to argue that Drew’s bat has merely been average, especially in recent years, and for the most part, they would be correct. However, that in part can be explained by Drew’s struggles against left-handed pitching. Last year, Drew batted just .196 against LHP, but crushed righties to the tune of a .284 batting average with nine home runs, 21 doubles and seven triples along with a stellar .876 OPS. Production such as that would be a fine addition to the Tigers’ lineup.
Avila’s home run was indeed a welcome sight, and perhaps it was a sign that the Tigers are finally going to get at least some type of production from a left-handed hitter other than Martinez. However, Avila still has a long way to go to return to being the formidable run producer he was in 2011, and the Tigers still need more left-handed hitting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Drew, but the Tigers would be very wise to consider adding another left-handed bat one way or another.