Friday, August 26, 2011

Alex Avila: Detroit Tigers MVP?

Thursday evening, I took part in the Bless Your Boys podcast (twice, actually) and one of the topics was about the league MVP candidates, which led into the topic of the Tigers team MVP this year. Now the other members of the podcast (Al, Rob, David, local drunk chick Alli) all chose Justin Verlander as the team MVP. Your Party Host, however, chose someone that at the beginning of the season, I might have ranked somewhere between Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly…Mr. Alex Avila. I was very wrong.

I really do believe that Avila has been team MVP this year, especially in the past month. Yet I wouldn’t consider him the AL MVP over guys like JV or Miguel Cabrera. Does that even make sense? Do I ever make sense? Let me attempt to explain without sounding clueless like Joe Morgan.

Let me begin with Miguel Cabrera. In the AL, Monster Mig is currently 5th in batting average, 10th in home runs, 8th in RBI, 2nd in OBP, 6th in slugging, 4th in OPS, 3rd in hits, 6th in doubles, 2nd in intentional walks, 2nd in OPS+, 4th in runs created, and 9th in WAR. He hit .311 the first half, and had upped that to .336 in the second half for the stretch run. And with runners in scoring position, he’s hit an amazing .391. In other words, Miguel Cabrera is really, really effing good. He deserves to be in the MVP discussion and then some.

As for the amazing Justin Verlander, in the AL he leads all pitchers in wins, games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP, and hits/9 innings pitched. He’s 2nd in ERA, 2nd in complete games, 3rd in shutouts, and 1st in WAR among pitchers. Oh yeah, he threw that no-hitter and almost had another. JV is a cyborg and also belongs in the MVP talks…the Cy Young Award is his, no question.

Alex Avila is hitting .304, with 16 homers, 63 RBI, a .397 OBP, .529 SLG, .926 OPS, 155 OPS+, and a 5.0 WAR. Those are all outstanding numbers, but they’re not going to be enough to get him in the AL MVP talks with Ellsbury, Bautista, Gonzalez, or Granderson…let alone Big Mig or Verlander.

So why did I name him my Tigers MVP for the season so far?

Maybe I should have named him Most Irreplaceable Tiger. With Victor Martinez unable to catch the past few weeks, Ironman Avila has done nothing but up his game. In August thus far, Alex is hitting .418 with 6 homers and a 1.336 OPS despite catching every day and taking an incredible beating behind the plate. He’s done an admirable job handling the pitching staff, too. All that while having to shave every three innings…not an easy task.

If Avila wasn’t here, who would have been catching for us? Omir Santos or Max St. Pierre? Do you think we’d still be 6-7 games up in the AL Central with those guys and their Gerald Laird-like offensive ability?

Miguel Cabrera is the greatest Tiger hitter I’ve had the pleasure of watching the past 26 years. But if he went down for 4-6 weeks, a combination of Victor Martinez/Ryan Raburn at first base would not sink the team, in my opinion.

The team is 20-8 when Justin Verlander starts. He’s awesome and the best Tiger pitcher I’ve ever seen. We are a very lucky fanbase right now. But the team is also 17-10 when Max Scherzer starts and 15-9 when Rick Porcello starts. If JV got an arm owie for a month and missed 5 starts, would those 5 games kill the team with Jacob Turner or Duane Below subbing for a while? I don’t think so.

But without Avila, I don’t know where we’d be. I don’t see Santos getting the key hits that Avila has seemed to deliver on a daily basis. It amazes me that a guy I didn’t think should be starting games in April has such a positive impact on the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers found a franchise catcher out of a guy that many, including myself, only thought was around because of who his father was. My apologies, Mr. Avila.

Or should I say, Mr. Team MVP.


h2opolopunk said...

I agree 110%, Sir Rogo. I was even thinking about putting together an extended piece for BYB, but I'm too lazy. And now that you hit the nail on the head here, I guess this work is done. Gud werk dewd.

Jay Hathaway said...

" All that while having to shave every three innings…not an easy task." - that's the funniest thing I've heard all week.  Avila has certainly been a surprise, and you make a very convincing argument with that perspective.  I really like Avila's seemingly effortless swings.  It looks like he's playing backyard wiffle ball, 'cept the ball goes reeaaallly far.  Also, much like Cabrera, he has a LOT of balls go just short of the fence, which tells me he has the potential to hit more homers with some more playing experience (incidentally, I think Mig's warning track shots are his version of pop-ups).

jason said...

Who the fuck is PFC William T. Santiago?