Can 2014 be the year of Alex Avila for the Detroit Tigers?


Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hi, I’m Josie, lifelong baseball fan and full on Tigers junkie. I was lucky enough to spend a few nights a week at Tiger Stadium during my formative years and now I bleed Tigers baseball. While the team has made me cry and scream more often than smile and cheer, I’m hooked and wouldn’t have it any other way. History indicates I could be setting myself up for yet more heartbreak, but I’m very optimistic about the 2014 Detroit Tigers. One of the main reasons for my happy thoughts is the possible, even probable, resurgence of Alex Avila.

In looking at Avila’s career numbers, especially focusing on the second half of the 2013 season, one has to conclude that the abysmal numbers he put up in the first half of 2013 both at and behind the plate were not much more than a fluke.

Avila has always been an above average performer defensively. Putting aside his stellar relationship with the pitching staff, his ability to communicate with them, and his game calling abilities, Avila can be counted on to stop runners. He had the highest percentage of runners caught stealing (%RCS) in the league in 2012(30%) and that was actually lower than the 32% he caught in 2011. His %RCS in 2013 was 17%. With such a drastic and dramatic decline, I have to think that wear and tear and his injuries were weighing on him more than he admitted.

I also have to conclude that if Avila can come into Spring Training healthy, and somehow lessen the beating he takes daily, we’ll see a return to form in throwing runners out. Bryan Holaday could help here. If he performs at or above expectation, Avila could get more rest than in previous seasons and have a better shot at staying healthy. The improved middle infield could also be a big help, with Jose Iglesias bringing the possibility to make great plays and get outs that many other players wouldn’t be able to get.

Offensively, when you look at Avila’s full 2013 season numbers it is easy to be pessimistic. .227/.317/.420 is nothing to write home about. However, breaking the season down into pre and post All Star Game segments presents a different story all together.   While Avila’s first half numbers are undoubtedly bleak (.177/.289/.293), his second half numbers are nothing short of stellar. Avila batted .303 from the ASG on, with a batting average of .343 in the month of September. His OBP jumped to .376 while his SLG soared up to .500. If the post ASG turnaround is any indication, and it well should be, Tigers fans can expect a much more lively bat from Avila in 2014.

Avila has the ability to help fill the hole in the power game left by Fielder and Peralta, if he can stay physically healthy and mentally tough. With the hiring of Ausmus, I’m expecting a return to form defensively with a high likelihood of even better numbers coming from behind the plate than we’ve seen from Avila.

All told, 2014 may just be a banner year for Avila, and if that happens, my outlook gets just a little bit sunnier.