To suggest that Alex Avila would evolve from a middling backup catcher who was assumingly in the big leagues because daddy was the assistant GM of the team, to an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and one of the most important catchers in the American League this year was about the same as suggesting that Jack the Ripper would suddenly turn from serial murderer to Gandhi in a year’s time.
Yet, for Avila it was true.
There were 18 catchers last year who played in at least 100 games for their respective ballclub’s. At 24, Avila was the second youngest of them all (Only Wilson Ramos of the Nationals was younger and Avila was 2 months younger than Josh Thole of the Mets). Valuable catchers like Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana had great numbers but played less than 100 games at catcher, both splitting time at first base and DH. They are left off.
Of the selected group, Avila had the highest OPS at .895 (Miguel Montero .820, Brian McCann .817, Yadier Molina .814, had the highest OBP at .389 (Carlos Ruiz .371, Chris Iannetta .370), the most extra base hits at 56 (Montero 55, Matt Wieters 50, Molina 47) and walks with 73 (Iannetta 70, and McCann 57).
With 551 Plate Appearances he was second on the leader board (Montero 553). He also had the second highest RBI total at 82 (Montero had 86) and the second highest Batting Average at .295 (Molina at .305 was the only catcher with a higher one).
He had the third most runs and hits out of the class, and everyone can easily say that he deserved the All-Star selection and the Silver Slugger award.
On the flip side, those who praise Avila are in for a bit of a reality check. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was .366. The next highest average was Montero at .317, an average that is much more in line with the league expectations.
Having hit nearly 50 points higher than the next catcher you would have to temper your enthusiasm and expect a bit of a regression in 2012, much like that of the teammate, Centerfielder Austin Jackson who has a BABIP of .396 in 2010 and fell over fifty points to .340 in 2011.
While I don’t think Avila will have a repeat performance in 2012, I don’t think it would be ridiculous to suggest he doesn’t have a line like .270/.340/.450, with 12-15 HR, 70-80 RBI and 60-70 walks for the season.