Over the past couple of years, fans of Detroit Tigers baseball have expressed their displeasure of seeing catcher Alex Avila strike out at an elevated rate. Having already fanned 110 times in 297 at-bats this season, that is more than understandable.
Avila has, however, homered in each of the Tigers’ past two games. He now has 10 long balls on the season, marking the third time he has reached double-digits in the home run department. His career high for homers, of course, is 19 which is a mark he set back in the 2011 campaign when he also drove in 82 runs, hit .295, made an All-Star team and took home a Silver Slugger award.
In the going-on three seasons since Avila’s marvelous 2011 campaign, many have wondered where his bat has gone. His defense and game-calling ability have remained solid, but the near-.300 hitter has seemingly gone AWOL. Many fans are frustrated that the Tigers have still yet to call up catching prospect James McCann from triple-A Toledo, who is currently batting .305 with a .794 OPS. Given Avila’s offensive woes and the unremarkable season of current backup catcher Bryan Holaday, one cannot be faulted for wanting to see McCann get the call.
However, even though Avila is only batting .226 with an astronomical strikeout rate, he still hits the occasional home run and his on-base percentage sits at a healthy .328. He has also hit 19 doubles, placing him third among American League catchers, trailing only Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.
Avila may never return to being the player who flirted with a .300 batting average and drove in 82 runs just three years ago, but he still shows shades of that form. The average is not there anymore, but, to a slightly lesser extent, the power still is. Having hit 10 homers now, he will almost assuredly end the season with his second-highest single-season total in that department, eclipsing the 11 big flies he hit last season. And, of course, he plays stellar defense as well.
Avila is still a very good catcher on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers are very fortunate to have him. His season has been going better than some may think.