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MLB All-Star Game: Tigers’ Alex Avila deserves your All-Star votes

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The veteran catcher is having the best season of his career.

Detroit Tigers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Alex Avila deserves to go to the All-Star game.

This isn’t said out of a misguided devotion to the player, or from a belief the Tigers are desperate for write-in votes. With the season the Tigers are currently having, it should come as no surprise they lead the All-Star voting in only one category: Miguel Cabrera at first base. Cabrera, an 11-time All-Star, is practically a sure thing for the American League roster in Miami come July.

There’s no denying that the All-Star game is nothing but a popularity contest. A contest which some fan bases have learned to manipulate with great success in the past. But it should also be an opportunity to recognize those who have excelled during a season, players who actually embody what it means to be the best of the best.

In 2017, that label applies to Alex Avila more than any other catcher in the American League.

He should be on the roster for the All-Star game, and the only way to get him there is by write-in votes.

If you need a little convincing, by all means. Let’s look at Avila’s current season numbers compared to the current vote leaders. These statistics were inclusive up to June 7, 2017.

Alex Avila vs. AL Catcher vote leaders

Player Team BA OBP SLG HR Votes
Player Team BA OBP SLG HR Votes
Alex Avila Detroit Tigers .324 .440 .640 9 -
Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals .268 .301 .478 11 692,867
Welington Castillo Baltimore Orioles .317 .339 .467 4 543,146
Brian McCann Houston Astros .271 .372 .481 8 512,077
Gary Sanchez New York Yankees .248 .333 .419 6 461,152
Yan Gomes Cleveland Indians .238 .321 .410 4 381,178

He leads every category except for home runs. If this were simply a contest to measure “Who is the best catcher in the AL right now?” Avila would win hands down. At least from an offense perspective.

This is, unquestionably, the best season of Alex Avila’s career. Better, even, than his 2011 season.

Let’s compare Avila’s current numbers to those of his first and only All-Star season in 2011. If we look at his stats up to June 7, 2011 and compare those to his stats up to June 7, 2017, we can see he is actually having a better season this year than he was in his last All-Star year.

2011 Alex Avila vs. 2017 Alex Avila - Season to June 7

Season AVG OBP SLG HR
Season AVG OBP SLG HR
2011 .289 .351 .542 9
2017 .324 .440 .640 9

There’s a caveat here, of course, that Avila was the every day catcher for the Tigers in 2011 and played almost every day of the 2011 season up until June 7th, whereas 2017 Avila is currently platooned with both James McCann and John Hicks, having started only 22 games so far this season as a result.

However the numbers do paint a vivid picture of how he has made use of those games. Other players who have seen infrequent play have not had nearly the offensive impact that Avila has. His offensive numbers are better than Miguel Cabrera’s at the moment — again with the caveat that Cabrera has played in more games — and Cabrera is currently the only Tiger leading in All-Star votes for his position. Cabrera’s line is .270/.378/.423, but he has started in 42 games, almost twice as many as Avila. It’s worth noting, however, that Alex has almost twice as many home runs as Cabrera: nine, to Miggy’s five.

It’s easy for people to point at All-Star write ins as a way for teams to champion fan favorite players for a place on the roster, but if we honestly look at Avila’s numbers, he deserves to be on that All-Star roster. Some of the players he is competing against have played just as few games: Castillo has started in only 26 games, Sanchez in 28.

Salvador Perez has the Kansas City vote machine backing him, and Gary Sanchez is following up his near Rookie of the Year season of 2016. Brian McCann and Sanchez both had stints on the disabled list this season as well, cutting into their play time. Avila is the healthiest he’s been in years.

So if player quality matters to you, and you want to vote for a guy who deserves to be on the All-Star team this year, go write Avila’s name into a ballot. Voting closes June 29.