Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: Who is this new Alex Avila and can he stay?

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Apr 16, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (31) rounds the bases on his two-run home run in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (31) rounds the bases on his two-run home run in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /
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I’ll admit, I wasn’t the most excited fan on the planet when the Detroit Tigers re-signed Alex Avila in the off-season.

The Detroit Tigers backup catcher has not had seasons to write home about, making it easy to shake my head at the signing.

But, it looks like 2017 could be the start of a new and improved Alex Avila.

Avila has played three complete games and had a total of 10 at-bats. In those ten at-bats, his stats are off the charts. His .700 batting average compliments his 2.286 OPS. He’s got two home runs and five RBIs. Unfortunately, he has only crossed home plate after his home runs.

Apr 14, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins (18) waits at home for catcher Alex Avila (31) after Avila’s home run during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins (18) waits at home for catcher Alex Avila (31) after Avila’s home run during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Avila does have a brief history of hitting for power, but he really hasn’t done it since 2011 when he was named an All-Star and hit 19 home runs batting a career high .295/.389/.506 with an OPS of .895.

Between 2012 and 2016, his stats were nothing to write home about. His slash in those five years were .227/.337/.362 with an OPS of .699. His worst season was his last one with the Tigers in 2015 when he only hit .191 with an OPS of .626. After that, he went to the Chicago White Sox, where not much changed.

But now (I can’t believe I’m typing this), Alex Avila is currently being seen as a legitimate threat at the plate. In Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco pitched around him. The Indians actually pitched AROUND him to get to Andrew Romine – who also has collected some serious hits, but has since come back down to Earth. Of course, this game plan was after he hit a bomb to right-center in the second inning. The home run traveled over 400 feet and plated Tyler Collins (who also has outstanding stats right now).

How long will this Alex Avila last? As statistics go, Avila and his powerful bat should eventually level out. But, this early production is creating a valid case that Avila might need to play more than he already is. On the flip side, James McCann, the everyday catcher, has three home runs to his 28 at-bats. But his batting average and other stats are nowhere near the levels of Avila’s.

Over the years, Avila has been a player who gets beat up behind the plate. His sudden strength and power at the plate could be due to the fact that he has only caught in 27 innings. During spring training, his numbers weren’t anything special. His batting average at the end of March was .116 in 43 at bats. He did not hit any home runs in the Grapefruit League.

Did Avila intentionally take it easy in spring break? Possibly. It would make sense, especially with his history of concussions and hamstring issues. Being the backup catcher might just be the perfect position for him as playing once or twice a week could keep him healthy and powerful.

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Even though he hasn’t caught much, t is clear that the Tigers love having him behind the plate. He is truly a veteran catcher who knows how to work with his pitchers. In an article by George Sipple with the Detroit Free Press, Daniel Norris said about Avila:

"“He’s George Clooney. When he talks I tell him he’s George Clooney. He comes out there and calms me down.”"

After interviewing Avila when he was inducted into the West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame in January of this year, I can say it is easy to see why players like working with him. He does have a calming voice, but there is a gentle intensity to him. For a pitcher like Norris, whose competitive nature can get out of control, Avila is the perfect battery mate to keep him relaxed and loose.

Next: Miguel Cabrera Finds His Power

As Tigers fans, we get the joy of watching Miguel Cabrera on a regular basis, but we also get to watch the rest of the team do its thing. So, let’s enjoy the Alex Avila that we are seeing in these early spring games. Hopefully, he’ll stick around for a few more.

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