Editor’s note: Ashley MacLennan is a writer and editor for Bless You Boys, SB Nation’s Detroit Tigers blog. She also happens to be a Cubs fan, which made the recent trade of Avila to the Cubs a lot easier to stomach. She does, however, miss writing about him regularly, and as such will now be doing a weekly update on his achievements.
I’ll admit, it’s still a bit weird for me to see Alex Avila in a Cubs’ uniform.
The red, white, and blue make anyone look good, but as someone who came to appreciate Avila during his tenure with the Detroit Tigers, the colors just seem a little off. That said, it’s been amazing to watch him adapt and flourish with a new team, continuing the successful year he set into motion earlier this season.
See, the thing about Alex Avila is that he doesn’t often get the appreciation he deserves, especially now that he’s more primarily viewed as a backup catcher. But if there’s one thing I know Cubs fans can appreciate, it’s a great backup catcher. (Don’t think I don’t see you, Taylor Davis.)
I could wax poetic about Avila’s best qualities as a player (namely his ability to grow that majestic beard, which I know Cubs fans can appreciate. I have a fuzzy Jake Arrieta bobblehead in my office), but in this column my goal is to focus on what he’s done well week after week. Sometimes bench guys don’t get their praises sung enough.
Plus, I just miss writing about him.
The most obvious highlight of the week is Avila’s heroic, game-winning triple against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Let’s be clear: Avila is not a guy known for his speed. He has spent the better part of nine seasons crouched behind home plate, and that does a number on even the fittest knees. Yet he hustled, and his pure determination was what handed the Cubs that win, a win that will help them maintain their hold on the N.L. Central lead while other winning clubs flounder.
The triple was Avila’s first since September 17, 2013. Yes, you read that right. He had not hit a triple in almost four years.
Yeah, I think that’s worth celebrating.
The rundown on Avila’s week (since September 1):
- Avila walked four times. This may not seem like an exciting stat, but it does demonstrate one of the greatest skills Avila possesses, and that’s plate discipline. At 15.5% Avila actually has the highest walk percentage of anyone on the team with regular plate appearances. Adding in his numbers with the Tigers earlier this season and his average increases to 16.2% which means it isn’t just a small Cubs sample size talking, it’s his patience.
- The September 6 triple, obviously.
With September hurrying along and postseason baseball looming, Avila may not seem like the kind of guy to be a huge difference-maker in the Cubs’ playoff chances, but he is proving himself to be exceptionally useful in important ways.
I can’t wait to see what the next week holds.