Many people seem to think Alex Avila is a poor hitter. This isn’t a few crazies, it’s a meaningful contingent of people. They’re wrong. I’m always open to the idea of being incorrect. I make it a person goal. You always have to be willing to come across evidence to the contrary, but given the evidence available to the general public at this point in time, you can’t build an argument that Alex Avila is performing poorly this year. You may be able to craft an argument that says he’s not going to be good for very long, but he’s awesome right now during this very season.
But Avila is hitting .245! That seems bad!
It’s not, and it also doesn’t matter, almost at all. The league average position player’s batting average is .255. The league average catcher’s batting average is .254. At worst, Avila is 9 or 10 points worse than the average player or average player at his position.
But Avila strikes out all the freaking time!
He is striking out a lot this season. 33.9% of the time! But that’s okay. Strikeouts aren’t good, but they aren’t the devil. This is a point against him, but there’s more to baseball than strikeouts!
Alright, smart guy, what’s so good about Alex Avila’s bat?
Glad you asked! Thanks for being open minded. Alex Avila has a 15.3% walk rate. The average catcher walks 8.3% of the time. Avila doesn’t always get hits, but walking is almost as good as a single. It’s not quite as good because sometimes runners can advance an extra base on a single, but who are you kidding, Avila hits behind Martinez and Castellanos most of the time, so it’s only Austin Jackson and he’s not always on base. That 15.3% walk rate takes that slightly below average batting average to a super great OBP! His OBP this year is .368. The average catcher’s OBP is .322. That’s a huge gap. Avila gets on base 4.6% more of the time than the average player at his position. That’s great! Of players with 80 PA at catcher this year, Avila’s OBP is 9th. And 4-9 are all really close, too. He’s a good defensive catcher who gets on base way more than average. And getting on base is good!
Take it a step further, he’s slugging too! His slugging percentage is .449 and the average catcher slugs .398. That’s a huge gap. Throw those bad boys together and his .364 wOBA is quite a bit better than the .319 wOBA the average catcher offers (129 wRC+ to 100 wRC+). That 129 wRC+ is also the third best mark on the Tigers. It’s VMart, Cabrera, and then Avila. Avila.
There are two things about Avila’s offensive game that seem bad, but batting average 1) has been declining league-wide for years and you need to lower your expectations and 2) is a really bad stat to care about because it’s leaving out tons of useful information. The other thing, striking out, isn’t good, but it’s not hurting him. This isn’t 2011 Avila, but this is a really good player. He might get hurt and miss a bunch of time or stop being able to hit because his knee falls off, but so far this season, he’s killing it.