When Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila went on the 15 day disabled list with a loose body in his left knee, he possibly left open a huge gap in the Tigers defense and offense. While he went and received a second and third opinion on his knee, there is a good possibility that he may miss up to six weeks, maybe even longer as he will try to rehab the knee injury. As we all know rehab can work in most cases, but if it does not work he will be out for most of, if not all of, the season and require arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury. Avila had been able to hide the injury from Manager Brad Ausmus until last Friday when it finally reached the point that he was unable to catch. Catchers seem to be the toughest guys on the field, and hearing what Avila had to say about the injury just reassures that thought.
“It affects me getting out of a chair. So, it’s been pretty painful for the past few weeks. Some days it’s been difficult just to walk around. I knew there was something probably a little more serious. Basically I’ve been playing with it, some days not sure how. According to the doctor, it wouldn’t be smart to continue playing. Probably do some more damage, so gotta take care of it.”
With Avila out of the line up the Tigers will now turn to rookie catcher James McCann, and have promoted Bryan Holaday from the minors to be his back up. The loss of Avila hurts the Tigers on both sides of the field, because of his pitch calling abilities and his offensive abilities. Many people feel that McCann is ready to take over the job for Avila, but the fact is McCann is a rookie and inexperienced. Avila has been the Tigers full time catcher for the past 5 years and has only committed 26 errors over that time and the Tigers have won 4 straight division titles with him calling the shots behind the plate. Avila has earned the trust of the pitchers and has helped them with his ability to frame pitches. He helped turn Max Scherzer into a Cy Young pitcher. He was behind the plate for Verlander’s MVP and Cy Young season, and was critical in the development of pitchers Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello. This season his presence is even more crucial with the Tigers having arguably their weakest starting pitching staff since Avila joined the team.
On offense, his presence will really be felt as he currently holds a .342 OBP which is good for sixth best on the team ahead of James McCann, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Yoenis Cespedez, and Nick Castellanos. At the time of his injury he was third on the team in walks, despite his dismal .200 batting average. So while he doesn’t hit for a high average, he still gets on base holding the fifth best OBP for catchers in Major League Baseball. Essentially breaking down Avila’s OBP using the Sabermetric method, he holds a .333 secondary average and a 7.7 runs created. I know many people doubt what Avila brings to the table as an offensive presence, but we need to look past what Avila’s average is and follow his on base percentage.