Former Tigers catcher Alex Avila will retire at the end of the 2021 MLB season, according to a report from Maria Torres of The Athletic. Avila, 34, is currently playing out his final season in a part-time role with the Washington Nationals.
The bulk of Avila’s 13-year career came with the Tigers. He spent eight seasons in Detroit, playing in 760 games. In 2,709 plate appearances, he hit .245/.350/.404 with 77 home runs and 314 RBI.
Avila made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2009 and quickly established himself as a fan favorite (and a BYB meme) by posting a .965 OPS over the final two months of the season. He backed that up with an All-Star appearance in 2011, hitting .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI as the Tigers won 95 games and their first division title since 1987.
However, as we have seen all too often with catchers, injuries and the wear-and-tear of the position took their toll. Avila endured several stints on the injured list throughout his career and struggled with concussions during his Tigers tenure. His game tailed off somewhat at the plate, but he continued to post high walk rates and hit for a modest amount of power throughout his career. He was a solid defender behind the plate as well, though dreams of him playing third base in interleague play were short-lived.
A cursory glance at Avila’s statistics won’t show where he was arguably most valuable with the Tigers: as a main part of their battery with some of the best pitching staffs of recent memory. The 2013 Tigers set a then-record for the highest strikeout rate in MLB history under his watch (a mark that has since been broken by 70-odd teams). He was behind the plate for Justin Verlander’s second no-hitter, and 33 of Verlander’s 34 starts during his 2011 MVP run. And when Max Scherzer recorded his 3,000th strikeout earlier this season, Avila popped up as the backstop who had caught more of them than anyone else.
When you record 3,000 Ks, quite a few people are going to be on the other side. pic.twitter.com/b5MNCluc7W— MLB Vault (@MLBVault) September 13, 2021
While Avila didn’t put up the same gaudy stat lines that other catchers in Tigers history have managed, he should be remembered as the latest in a long line of strong Detroit backstops.
And who knows? With Avila saying he does not intend to be out of the game long, we may see him back with the Tigers again in some capacity.