Avila: “It’s obvious I’ve been struggling.”

Last Labor Day, Alex Avila was wearing down but not hitting like it. He was literally an everyday catcher, having gone nearly a month without a backup after Victor Martinez injured his knee on an early August slide into home plate, yet he was a .360 hitter in August with seven home runs in 26 games. He was a marvel to scouts and fans alike watching him take his spot behind home plate day in and day out.

This Labor Day, he’s getting the rest to stay fresher, but hits like somebody who isn’t.

One scout tracking the Tigers, and watching Avila’s recent swings at the plate, suggested Avila looks like somebody wearing down as the season hits the final month. He’s in an 0-for-15 slump, having struck out six times in that stretch, and 5-for-49 stretch since Aug. 12. Beyond that, he has been struggling to do much with fastballs in recent days. He has had some awkward swings, and his lone extra-base hit in the last three weeks was his triple that got past Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who supposedly lost it in the lights as he overran it.

In fairness, his 5-for-49 slump immediately preceded a season-high 11-game hitting streak, during which he hit .457 (16-for-35) with four doubles, a home run and eight RBIs. Still, his slump is prolonged enough that manager Jim Leyland is talking about it when asked.

“Well, he’s struggling. I mean, that’s putting it mildly,” Leyland said after Monday’s loss to the Indians. “He hit extra yesterday to try to get some extra swings and get some things ironed out. But it is what it is. That’s the way it is.”

He doesn’t have to worry about offending Avila, because Avila is talking about it, too.

“A hitter knows when he’s not getting hits,” Avila said. “I think that’s more superstitious. It’s obvious I’ve been struggling. I’ve never been a superstitious guy or really cared about that. I know I’m struggling. What do I have to do to fix it? I’m trying to fix it, trying to get better. That’s it.”

In the field, Avila and Tigers pitchers watched an Indians team with nothing to lose steal four bases in four tries Monday. The lone runner thrown out on the basepaths was on an attempt to advance on a pitch in the dirt, not on a straight steal. Opponents are 10-for-10 stealing off Tigers pitchers over the past week or so in games Avila started, though the bulk of the responsibility goes to the pitcher to give his catcher a quick delivery and a fighting chance.

Avila spent some time getting some extra hitting work in the batting cages when he was out of the lineup Sunday, and he also got some treatment on his knees. However, he said, his health is fine. He said it Sunday, and he said it again Monday.

“I check with him every day,” Leyland said. “Physically, he’s fine. I mean, there’s no issues. He’s in a rut right now, obviously, but he’ll come out of it. He’s having a little trouble right now offensively.”

Said Avila: “Sometimes when you fall into slumps and you do all the extra stuff and everything, you think you can get out of it with one hit, and that’s not case. You just have to be able to put at-bats together. It’s one of those things that takes time to get out of. You can’t rush it.”

The issue isn’t as simple as getting Avila more rest. With the rash of left-handed starters the Tigers have faced lately, he’s been getting rest. Plus, some way, somehow, the Tigers need a productive Avila in the bottom half of the order. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago he was protecting Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in the lineup.

It’s also not like the Tigers are holding anything or anybody back by playing Avila. Gerald Laird went into the All-Star break batting .306, but he’s hitting under .200 since. Bryan Holaday just arrived as a third catcher in Detroit after finishing up his Triple-A season in Toledo batting .240.

The Tigers need an effective Avila, a fact that’s as apparent now as it was during the postseason last year, when it was painful to watch Avila run. He was clearly hobbled then. It’s not nearly so cut-and-dry now.

6 Comments

well there you have it folks. Alex is “Physically, he’s fine. I mean, there’s no issues.” So take that for what it is worth. Personally i’d continue to platoon them.

Sometimes these slumps get over-analyzed. Just reading his spray patterns since the slump began – plus looking at how his flyball-groundball ratio has changed, is all that’s need to figure out the remedy.
I won’t mention seeing an eye doctor. I’m sure Avila went that route already. I’ll bet it something’s simple mechanically – or it may just require Avila playing more – as in his past (2011). Let him play 3 of 4 games the rest of the way. DH young Alex 3-4 times the rest of the schedule too.

Reverse psychology…. more work during games may be the medicine he needs.

Cumulative effect, perhaps, both physical and mental. He caught 141 games last year. Myself, I never considered Alex as integral to the offense as long as the other hitters were doing their jobs. I think he’s been overworked. Catchers used to catch basically four starters and a small handful of occasional relievers but now it’s much more. And we may forget how young he is still. It could also be a sophomore slump type of thing, even though he’s technically not a sophomore. Last year was his first full season as fulltime catcher.

Id be more likely to accept the sophmore slump thing. Yes I get real annoyed with that weeeaaaak ground ball to the second baseman he hits nerly everytime unless he is striking out. But the passed balls and the poor throws to 2nd which killed us and realy wound up being the difference yesterday. He doesn’t do that we win. He was a liability.

He does not have a hit in the last five games. Still, he is 5th for OBP and 4th for BB but 3rd in SO.
He was overworked last year.Time to play Laird no matter if he bats 100 too.

I know the Tigs are fighting for a wild card berth but, I would give GL some more starts and even DH AA now that you have the callup Holiday. Speaking of Holiday, I watched him in college and he is a leader, solid behind the plate and above average @ the plate! Now that we gave away Brantley and Turner, we need to draft/trade for a catcher, SS, corner OF and the commodity you can never have too much of, pitching!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 24,755 other followers