Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alex Avila's Opening Day Struggles Not a Surprise

Alex Avila had a rough opening day in New York. 0 for 4 with three strikeouts was not the way he wanted to start the season, I’m sure. Add in the fact that he struggled to catch the ball, too, and people started going nuts. I don’t fault the kid, though. As I said after the game, I don’t think he had any business being in the starting lineup against CC Sabathia in the first place.

Now some writers and bloggers are rushing to Avila’s defense over Tiger fans being upset. Whatever. I’ve been against Avila being handed the starting catcher job before proving he can handle it since he came first came up and some started calling him the next Lance Parrish. He started nice for a couple weeks, but has looked overmatched ever since. A year in Toledo would do wonders to show the team (and his dad) if the guy’s ready or not. To just hand him the job this year was beyond foolish in my opinion.

Now one guy defending him after Thursdays’ game was the Batman to my Joker, Jamie Samuelsen of the freep. Jamie put up this piece on Avila to defend him, yet he basically conceded that Alex isn’t much of a player. Comedy. But the part that annoyed me was Jamie’s defense that we should deal with Avila as catcher because other than Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, and Brian McCann, there aren’t any good catchers in Major League Baseball anyway. Here’s a quote:

No, Avila is not that special in terms of catching. But look at that list of MLB catchers again. Not many guys are.

Oh.  Really, you say.

C’mon, dude. Did you even look at this list of catchers yourself? There’s more than the big three out there. Here’s a list for you. This is a list of catchers in baseball with a minimum of 170 plate appearances last year that had a higher VORP than Alex Avila did.

Joe Mauer: 50.5
Brian McCann: 37.8
Victor Martinez: 37.1
Buster Posey: 32.5
Carlos Ruiz: 32.5
Geovany Soto: 31.5
John Buck: 25.8
Jorge Posada: 24.1
Ramon Hernandez: 20.1
Ryan Hanigan: 18.0
John Jaso: 17.5
Carlos Santana: 16.2
Miguel Olivo: 15.3
Ryan Doumit: 14.0
Yorvit Torrealba: 13.0
Miguel Montero: 12.5
Chris Snyder: 8.7
Josh Thole: 8.4
Yadier Molina: 7.9
Russell Martin: 7.7
Matt Wieters: 7.4
Francisco Cervelli: 7.3
Nick Hundley: 7.3
AJ Pierzynski: 5.7
Kurt Suzuki: 4.0
George Kottaras: 3.8
Ronny Paulino: 3.0
Jose Molina: 2.5
Chris Iannetta: 1.8
Rod Barajas: 1.4
Bengie Molina: 0.6
Brayan Pena: 0.3

Alex Avila FINALLY shows up next with his negative VORP of -0.4. There’s a LOT of decent catchers in baseball right now. And established catchers Ivan Rodriguez, Kelly Shoppach, and Jason Kendall finished behind Avila, but I think many people would be more comfortable with any of them starting this year in Detroit than Alex. I would, at least.

I’m not saying all these guys are better than Avila. I’m not saying I’d want all of them over him. What I’m saying is what I’ve been saying all along.

Alex Avila might be ready one day to be the Tigers’ main catcher. But that day isn’t today. We should have signed someone else, somebody proven, to be our primary catcher/split time with V-Mart while the kid gets experience in the minors. Would we really have had to offer up Jacob Turner to get a guy like Chris Snyder or Ramon Hernandez? I doubt it. Geez, at the very least we should have signed a backup plan.

Because as nice of a story as he is, Max St. Pierre as a backup plan is suicide.

At least Gerald Laird was one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. Alex Avila is just a guy. He’s a guy that didn’t have one extra base hit this spring. He’s a guy that looked lost on Opening Day. And I’m afraid that he’s a guy that’s only going to get more lost as the season goes on and the pressure mounts. Spare me the “It’s only been one game” stuff. He had 104 of them last year and had an OPS+ of 79. He showed he wasn’t ready and the team reacted by handing him the starting job with the DH and Don F’n Kelly as his backups.

Believe me, more than anything, I want Alex to succeed.  I have nothing against him.  I just think Tiger management has put him in a really tough spot that he cannot handle.

Alex Avila is a guy that needs to put it al together in a hurry if this team wants to contend.  We're screwed if he doesn't.  And there will be no one to blame but the front office.

Thanks, Dad.


Kyle said...

Nicely said. A full year in the minors would have helped boesch as well. Instead of just rotting on the bench not playing every day. Why do we have to rush every prospect we have?

Jschwa said...

The Yanks got Russell Martin for $5 mil ...Pizzaman should have offered 6.