With his home run on Sunday against the Clveland Indians, Mike Aviles finally got on the board for the 2016 season. In doing so, he struck a big blow against his own quest for batting futility. Entering the game, Aviles was hitting .218/.253/.241, which was good for a wRC+ of 31. The dinger skyrocketed that batting line to .222/.255/.278 and sent his wRC+ up to 41. That’s still an utterly horrible value, but it’s going to take more to become truly historic.
Using the wonderful tools set about at FanGraphs, I looked at the worst seasons Tigers hitters have had in the last 10 years. There were some truly ugly ones. For the sake of sample size stabilization, we’ll limit the search to hitters with at least 100 plate appearances (Aviles has 96, but you didn’t write the post so you don’t make the rules). Here are the worst seasons, by wRC+, beginning a season after the 2003 nightmare.
Nice to see the 2016 Tigers placing two players on this list, although that pales in comparison to the 2012 American League Champions. That team really ran the stars-and-scrubs method to extremes, which allowed Raburn to go to the plate 222 times while posting a putrid line of .171/.226/.254. It’s also worth noting that this list is adjusted to the continuing trends toward a pitcher-dominated league, which is why Vance Wilson’s .255 wOBA made the list while Andrew Romine failed to make the cut with a .253 wOBA in 2014.
So can Aviles continue his run towards history? It won’t be easy. For one, if he continues to struggle at the plate, he runs the risk of a DFA (although that home run probably bought him the entire month of July on the Tigers). Meanwhile, he’s been moving in the wrong direction of history in the month of June, scorching the ball to the tune of a .280/.294/.380 line. It’s hard to sustain historic levels of anything in baseball, and historic levels of futility is included in that category.
On the other hand, his peripherals have declined from past years, suggesting sustainability to his current performance. Aviles has lowered his walk rate from 6.3 percent in 2015 to 3.1 percent in 2016 while raising his strikeout rate from 12.0 percent to 18.8 percent. This conincides with a drop in his isolated power (.086 to .056). Considering his wRC+ was only 65 in 2015, it seems like he could only go down from there.
But will he go down far enough to catch Raburn? Only time will be able to tell whether he can reach that level.