Avila takes self-critical look at wild pitches

Just got back from the Tigers workout, which is basically an afternoon for guys to hit in the cages and work out in the weight room. The weather is cold and rainy, and while it isn’t as cold as Opening Day was in New York, it has that feel. But hey, it was an optional workout, and it beats hanging around the hotel all day or trying to be a tourist in the rain. That probably explains why a surprising number of players were there today.

Among them was catcher Alex Avila, who had a pretty self-critical take on the Tigers’ spat of wild pitches through four games. He spent part of his postgame time Monday looking at replays. At least from Monday’s game, he didn’t like what he saw on some pitches.

“That’s one thing that I focused on a lot in the offseason and the spring,” Avila said. “I blocked the crap out of balls this spring, and I did a really good job. I feel really comfortable back there, and the ball that got by me yesterday — I mean, that’s a ball that I block easy nine out of 10 times.

“What I was looking at on the video was my technique. It wasn’t what I’ve been doing recently. I’m definitely pretty hard on myself when something like that happens, especially with a guy on third base. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”

The difference, he said, was the angle he took on pitches in the dirt. With the angles he has been taking, he believes, he’s deflecting some pitches instead of blocking them.

“Looking at it, the ones that I do right, they’re right in front of me,” Avila said. “When they’re skidding off to the side, it’s because I’m getting too much of an angle. I’m going too far. … It’s almost like a mindset that you’re catching with your body.”

As mentioned before, the Tigers lead the Majors with six wild pitches entering play Tuesday. Five of those have come with Avila behind the plate, and to him, they go on his record.

“To me, they’re all passed balls,” he said.

He hasn’t had that problem on every pitch in the dirt. He saw another pitch from Monday’s game that he blocked because he took a good angle and got out in front of it in good time. Now he wants to do that consistently.

He worked on it this spring not seeing it as a weakness, but as something he felt he could improve with some work.

“It’s something I’ve been working very hard [to improve],” Avila said. “In the spring, your bullpen sessions, you set up like you’re in the game. A lot of times, I would use it like it’s a game situation, practice my positioning and stuff like that. It’s something that I got really good at in the spring. I think in the spring, one ball got by me, and it was a tough one. And the last couple days, I’ve had some balls get by me. It’s been eating at me because I know I’m good at it.”

The reason isn’t just for him. It’s for the pitchers. This is a pitching staff with a lot of potential for wild pitches, from Rick Porcello’s sinker and slider to Justin Verlander’s curveball to Max Scherzer’s developing slider to Brad Penny trying to keep everything low and around the strike zone.

“We don’t have too many finesse guys,” Avila said. “It’s not something I was bad at. I just wanted to improve so they can have the confidence to throw whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, and it’s going to be caught or blocked.”

16 Comments

On a different topic—From what I have seen in the last 2 years-I like Knapp. Much better than Hernandez.
I don’t care for McLendon. He has had opportunity to make guys better hitters and hasn’t. Laird, Everett, Inge, Larish, Clelen, Clete etc.
He has “mentored” an offense that has trouble moving runners, getting important runs in from 3rd with less than 2 out, cutting down on strikeouts, hitting with RISP.
IMO, he has benefitted frojm the Leyland Loyalty Legacy (the LLL). We’d have been better off with a realism that things that needed improvement haven’t and to correct that.
On another note: I predict Coke will end up in the bullpen, Thomas will be let go, and Andy Oliver will be in the rotation
And lest I forget—I detest JL’s for the media public criticism of Ramon Satntiago. Ramon has had to swallow the slings and arrows of JL’s tendency to critique the guys who have not been favorites or “stars”. The crap about him not being an everday shortstop, or wearing down and now the BS about him not being a “burner” on the bases. Ramon runs better than 80% of the rest of the roster. He does not make many mistakes on the base paths, he can bunt for a hit or (make sure you are sitting down for this one) or a sacrifice. He generally has a good AB. His glove is as good as anyones on this team. And he has to read that in the papers?
Shame on Leyland for being so obtuse as to deflect the problems with his team and his management style and throw a real ballplayer under the bus.

Dan you are 100 percent right on this.

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Avila on the wild pitches: “To me, they’re all passed balls,”
I like his attitude here, that’s a positive. I just wonder that they’ve rushed him along too quickly. This club has a tendency to annoint some youngsters as starters before they’re ready.
It appears that Leyland was trying to compliment Santiago but, as usual, everytime the man opens his mouth he says something that irks me. I suspect his “ways” are so ingrained in his head that he’s unable to explain them when asked, and ends up spouting some nonsense. Another thing that irks me regarding Santiago’s situation is when I hear an ill-informed fan parrot back the company line that Ramon had his chance as a starter. The dude was a 23-year old Dominican in his first full big league season and playing on a horrible ballclub in 2003. He had little chance.
Now…..the Orioles aren’t going to win forever and with Verlander starting tomorrow, maybe we can win the final two games and come home with a 3-3 road trip against two difficult teams. That would be a good trip.

The Orioles are always trouble for the Tigers even when the O’s don’t seem to have a good team. In the Monday game their hitters just attacked the ball. There was no Luke Scott. The Tigers couldn’t solve another rookie pitcher in Arrieta. I hope Verlander and Penny pitch better games than in their last starts. And hey! What happened to Raburn being the left fielder? I don’t really object to Boesch and Wells in the line-up, but either JL or DD said Raburn was the left fielder. If he is inconsistent now, is it because he is not playing regularly?

Stupid to think the season is on the line with JV pitching Game 5 but it sure feels that way. Knowing SOC teams don’t come back (only the 92 Pirates improved post break of his 8 seasons with winning records) JV followed by Penny must draw a line in the sand.
.
Going over old ground but when involving your own, you should always be second guessing to make sure they are ready, clearly not the case with Avila having only one season each at A and AA and picking up the C role only during college.
Besides preventing playing time for Boesch or Raburn, again only early days but Victor has not shown he is handling the move to DH well. A potentially much bigger problem than the past DH failures with his $50m 4 year contract. Avila’s leash will have to be shorter than Sizemore’s in 2010.

Martinez regular catcher. aavila to aa. Boesch dh. Well lf. Rabburn to LA

we do seem to have a problem where we have so many players who just either don’t seem to fit or won’t be allowed to fit into the team. Too many people that are rotating through positions. If Will Rhymes struggles (I haven’t seen many games on tv yet so not sure but thought I read he has been having troubles in the field) then it would make sense to put Ramon there for a stint to take the pressure off of Will. I like Will, in fact I loved him last season, but he has to show this season what he can do.

I am not panicking yet – agree with Rich if we can win these next 2 games and be .500 to start at home I will be happy.

I get real worried when I start hearing things like the leagues leading strikeout/AB is actually doing OK because he is seeing more pitches than other hitters. Talk about rose coloured glasses. Sorry Jason. but AJ repeating his problem of last year rather than correcting it is not what I was looking forward to.

Hey, I understand moving the linup around a bit but I have noticed when looking at other teams’ lineups that they are very similar day to day. It seems ours is always in flux and very fluid. Am I wrong or is JL so undecided about his decisions or does he worship Yogi-isms so much that he ends up always overthinking things to the point of distraction? Can anyone think up a good old Yogi-ism so we can practice how JL thinks?

Yogi-isms are too clever. I do have list of things Leyland says, and here is part of it:
I like him.

I like him a lot.

Like I said.

That’s just the way it is.

You can’t do that up here.

Every game counts.

He had a good game and he’s been hitting well. I’m giving him tomorrow off.

That’s a no-brainer. I do that everytime.

See, people don’t understand baseball.

I’m not working any harder next year, or any less hard. I’m going to do exactly what I always do.

“To tell you the truth”

“To be honest with you”

“Next question”

Momentum is only as good as the next starting pitcher.

i’m still of the opinion that much of what’s happened so far this season is noise. team seems out of synch with all those wild pitch/passed balls, off days, yet to have a home game, different lineup everyday so that the bench guys get some early season action, Coke coming out of the pen, guys getting ill…it’s been a real cluster of oddities so far. hopefully they’ll find a regular season rhythm soon.

I bet the Red Soxs are feeling a bit like we fans did in 2008, when we were anointed with the crown before the season??

I am hoping for one of those shutdown performances by JV tonight. For his own sake (in overcoming early season troubles) and for the team’s.

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