Alex Avila struggled at the plate last year, there's no gettin..."/> Alex Avila struggled at the plate last year, there's no gettin..."/> Alex Avila struggled at the plate last year, there's no gettin..."/>

Projecting Alex Avila For 2011


Alex Avila struggled at the plate last year, there’s no getting around that, but as we examined back in the fall, some of those struggle could be attributed to poor luck on balls in play.

But what can we expect from the Tigers’ anointed catcher of the future in 2011? Quite honestly, I have no idea, but there are a few projection systems out there that could give us a pretty good preview. Three readily available projections at this time are: Bill James, CAIRO, and fan projections (from FanGraphs).

Here’s a chart of common rate stats from these projection systems:

I never really know which system to trust the most, so I usually like to do some sort of average of the projection numbers. It’s just a quick and simple way to combine the projection numbers without having to dig into the methods to determine which one you trust the most.

I included average, on-base percentage, slugging average, on-base plus slugging, but my personal favorite batting statistic is weighted on-base average (wOBA). For those that aren’t familiar with wOBA, just know that it’s a lot like OPS, but it weighs events (single, double, home run, etc.) properly. It’s set to the scale of on-base percentage, so an average starter will have a wOBA in the .340 range. Lee Panas had a great article a while back about wOBA, and it would serve as a nice intro if you’re new to the statistic.

So, just looking at the wOBA column, we see that the systems combine for an average wOBA projection of .323 in about 371 plate appearances.

But while .323 is a bit below what might be considered average for a general position player, it’s quite a bit closer to average for a catcher.

Last year there were 21 MLB catchers that accrued 370 plate appearances (the average of our projections from the table) or more. The average wOBA from this group of players was 0.328. That’s still “below average” for a catcher, but this group of player contains a bias toward better hitters (since poor hitters aren’t allowed to get 370 plate appearances). So, really, 0.323 probably isn’t all that far off of a league average hitting mark for catchers.

Tigers fans have suffered through some pretty lousy hitting out of the catcher position the last couple of years, but it looks like 2011 will be different. The starter Avila should give us near-average production, which would be infinitely better than whatever it was Gerald Laird was doing at the plate. And, needless to say, the production level from the catcher’s spot should see a boost when Victor Martinez fills in behind the plate.

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