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Catching Grind Leading to Grounders for Avila?

Detroit's Alex Avila squatted behind home plate for 1,157 innings during the regular season, the second-highest total in the major leagues. All of those backswings, foul tips and even small fires could be catching up with the 24-year-old as he plays deep in the playoffs following his first season as a full-time starter with the Tigers.

The lefty hitter had a .295 average, a .389 OBP and a .506 slugging percentage during the regular season, leading qualified MLB backstops by a wide margin in the latter two categories. But in the playoffs, Avila has a ghastly .080/.148/.080 slash in 28 plate appearances. It's a very small sample size, of course, but the catching grind might be leading to lots of grounders for the convert who began his college career at Alabama as a corner infielder.

Avila has put 16 balls in play during the postseason, and he has chopped 12 of them into the infield grass. He's either pulling the ball to the right side or weakly tapping back toward the mound:

Avila's ground ball spray chart in the 2011 playoffs (one grounder is missing from the chart)

By contrast, Avila hit a ground ball just 38 percent of the time during the regular season, well below the 43 percent league average. Considering that Avila, whose knees seem to snap, crackle and pop with each step, might not be able to beat Jim Leyland in a foot race right now, hitting the ball on the ground is a surefire way to end up limping back to the dugout.

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