Coming back to earth

Alex Avila's 2011 numbers weren't a fluke, but he may struggle to match them this season. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In some ways, a giant season from an unexpected source can be a double-edged sword. While getting a lot more out of a player than you expect going into a season is a great way to amass a bunch of juicy extra wins, predicting what comes next can be a maddening challenge. Whether you're a general manager of a major league team with a $100 million payroll or a general manager of a fantasy baseball team, setting expectations for players after an overachieving season can make or break you down the road.

Previously, we looked at the players who most underperformed their 2011 ZiPS projections last season to get a look at how they will do in 2012. Now we look at the flip side of the coin: the players who most exceeded their projections.

Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers

2011 Projected OPS: .685
Actual OPS: .895

More than any of the other hitters on this list, Avila's star season came truly out of nowhere. Between ZiPS and the fans surveyed by FanGraphs (.706 OPS), he was generally seen as a young catcher who could continue to fill the role adequately and was a quick learner with the glove. Instead of being merely adequate and accomplishing what Gerald Laird was supposed to in Detroit (and didn't), Avila put up a good season -- by Johnny Bench standards.