Alex Avila is good at many things. I’m a staunch defender from the class of people who claim to be on #TeamAvila. He’s a very good defender. He handles the staff well. He hits as well or better than the average catcher. He’s an all around good player and I enjoy cheering for him. But he has one seriously weakness. He is not a good baserunner.
Shocking! I’m sure you’re shocked. Avila is very slow and his legs are often injured. This isn’t really a blame Avila piece. He’s not supposed to run well. No argues he does. I just wanted to pull it apart and show you what’s going on because it’s been awfully rough.
The basics, first. Avila has been worth -3.5 runs on the bases this year relative to league average which puts him second to last ahead of only Eric Hosmer. To give you some context, it’s rare to see a runner go worse than -5 for an entire season. The calculation is pretty straightforward conceptually. A SB is worth about .2 runs and a caught stealing will cost you about .385 runs. Add those up and compare them to league average and you have a stat called wSB that captures stolen base runs. Then there’s another calculation called UBR, which measures other baserunning advancements based on how much they improve the odds of scoring a run compared to what an average runner would do in that situation. It is expressed in runs and you add that to wSB to get BsR. You don’t have to do the math, yourself, just understand we’re talking in runs and 10 runs equals one win.
In Avila’s best season he was a -0.2 BsR guy. In his worst before this year it was -2.6 BsR. This year he’s stolen zero bases and he’s been caught three times for a -1.3 wSB. His UBR is -2.1, which is capturing the non stolen base part. (The digits are rounded if you’re wondering why they don’t quite add to -3.5)
On the bases, Avila has made a baserunning out (OOB) at first base twice this year (doubled off on 5/20 and 5/24) and at home once (below on 4/25). That’s not good this early, but it’s not deadly. Want deadly, he’s taken the extra base only 7% of the time this year. He’s been on first when a single was hit 7 times and he’s gone first to third zero times. He’s been on first when a double was hit twice. He made it to third once and was gunned down at home the other time. He’s been on second when a single was hit six times and scored only once.
I mean, the ball bounces away from the right fielder and he’s still out easily!
The league average player takes the extra base (more than one on a single, more than two on a double, etc) 41% of the time. Avila does it 7% of the time. His career mark is 28%, which is still poor, but this is even rough for him.
I’m sure some of this is small sample size. He won’t stay at 7% all year, but Avila is slow and doesn’t have the instincts necessary to make up for it. He isn’t taking runs away by getting gunned down too often (For example, Hosmer has been thrown out at home four times), but he isn’t advancing when the ball is put into play.
Avila is a good player who adds a lot of value to the team, but his baserunning has been exceptionally bad this year.
I’m not anti-Avila, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say he hits “as well or better than the average catcher.” I would argue that when he is swinging it well he is one of the better hitting catchers in the game, but that his painful inconsistency makes him average at best with the stick. Totally agree with your baserunning analysis though! Keep up the good work.
2014 League average catcher: .311 wOBA
2014 Avila: .323 wOBA
Last year he was .310 wOBA in his worst full season. He can be streaky, but most non elite hitters are.
I get what you’re saying, but last year Avila was two different players in the first and second half. While the averages balance out to a respectable number, his torrid second half doesn’t erase his horrid first, you know?
Everyone seems to have this ‘streaky’ complaint, but I just don’t see it. Prior to last year, the Avila you got in the first half was almost exactly what you got in the second half.
Last year obviously there was a noticeable difference, but in every year before that Avila showed pretty good consistency. The streaky-ness seems to be overblown. Besides, players don’t hit .250 by going 1 for 4 every single day. They have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, and so on. Very few players don’t go up and down.