After a very slow month of April, the Detroit Tigers‘ left-handed hitting catcher Alex Avila has quietly been putting together a very solid month of May. His resurgence has been important for the Tigers, as there was a time early in the season when switch-hitting Victor Martinez was the team’s sole threat from the left side. Now that Avila has been popping a few out of the park, Martinez has some semblance of company.
In the month of May, Avila is hitting .260/.393/.580 with four home runs and 10 RBIs, compared to .220/.339/.300 with zero home runs and two RBIs in March/April. His season line now stands at .240/.367/.440, and the number that pops out right away is the stellar on-base percentage of .367. As a matter of fact, the only Tiger with a higher OBP at the moment is Martinez at .380. Even when Avila was struggling, he was still managing to draw his walks and get on base.
Avila’s best season came back in 2011 when he slashed .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs, and there was hope over the winter that Avila’s 2014 numbers would be more akin to his 2011 numbers as opposed to those of his previous two seasons. Although it may now be a stretch to suggest that Avila could get his batting average up to where it was in 2011, it seems reasonable to say that he should be able to finish the season with a batting average hovering around the .250 mark with 15-20 home runs, which would indeed be an improvement over his 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
Perhaps he could be even better, though. The Tigers simply need Avila to stay as hot as possible and continue hitting with extra-base power, as they have seen first-hand this week that their right-handed heavy lineup can indeed be vulnerable when they run into quality right-handed starters such as Yu Darvish.
For as good as Avila has been lately, he still needs to improve on a few things, and strangely enough he is only batting .236 against RHP compared to .250 against LHP.
After Martinez and Avila, the Tigers’ only other left-handed batters are career .231 hitter Don Kelly, and the light-hitting, switch-hitting Andrew Romine, whose batting average has now plummeted down to .173. Although Andy Dirks is slated to come off of the DL sometime next month, it remains to be seen what he will give the Tigers after missing three months and struggling throughout much of 2013.
Simply put, the Tigers are going to need Avila to resemble the formidable RBI man he was in 2011 and fulfill the role of being the team’s second best left-handed hitter behind Martinez, or they may be forced to swing a trade for another left-handed bat this summer.