The American and National League Sliver Slugger Awards were handed out Thursday night and while most of the players who received them deserved them, there was two players that I felt were overlooked. But we will get to them in a minute.
Of the nine National League winners, seven were first time recipients. Only Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun and Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill had won in the past. Braun won his fifth straight with the Brewers while Hill won his second overall. Hill won his first award in 2009 while playing in the American League for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Washington had the most winners, as three different Nationals won a Silver Slugger Award. Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche, shortstop Ian Desmond and pitcher Steven Strasburg all won awards.
The rest of the National League winners were San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Pittsburgh centerfielder Ander McCutchen, and Cincinnati right fielder Jay Bruce.
Bruce had his second straight 30-plus homer season and hit a career best 34 home runs and knocked in a career best 99 RBIs for the Reds. McCutchen joined the 30 homer club for the first time as he blasted 31 and drove in 96. McCutchen also finished second in the National League batting race with a .327 average. Posey won the batting title with a .336 average while hitting a career-high 24 round trippers and plating 103 runs for the Giants.
After totaling 36 home runs in his first four seasons, with a career high of 12 set back in 2009, Headley became one of the most dangerous third sackers in the NL last season with 31 homers while leading the senior circuit in RBIs with 115.
Posey won the batting title, Headley won the RBI title, so it should make sense that the NL home run leader also won a Silver Slugger and Braun did. Braun hit a career best 41 home runs for Milwaukee while also driving in 112 runs, two shy of his career high (114) set in 2009.
In his first full season with Arizona, Hill hammered 26 homers and plated 85 runs while hitting .302. Neither the homers nor the RBIs were career highs (36 and108 in 2009), but the numbers were still better than any other NL second baseman for the season. However, Hill did hit over .300 for the first time in his eight year career.
LaRoche hit a career high 33 home runs for the Nationals. It was the second time LaRoche hit over 30, the other time coming in 2006, and the seventh time LaRoche had hit 20-plus. LaRoche also drove in 100 runs, tying his career-high set back in 2010 while with Arizona. Fellow National, Desmond more than doubled his career home run total in one season. After hitting 22 over his first three seasons, Desmond led all shortstops with a career-high 25 homers while driving in 73. Desmond also stole 20 bases to join the 20-20 club for the first time.
The final winner was Nationals pitcher Steve Strasburg. Strasburg missed the final month of the season when the Nationals shut him down because of Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2010 season, but when he was playing, Starsburg was the best hitting pitcher out there, hitting .277 for the season with a home run and seven RBIs.
In the American League, Detroit and the New York Yankees each had two winners. Triple Crown winning third baseman Miguel Cabrera picked up his fourth award while first baseman Prince Fielder won his third award overall, but his first in the American League.
Cabrera became the first third baseman in baseball history to win the Triple Crown. He did it by hitting a career-high 44 home runs, driving in a career-high 139 runs and batting .330. Over his career, Cabrera had won all three parts of the Triple Crown before, but had never put it all together for one season.
Cabrera won the 2011 batting title with a .344 average, the RBI title in 2010 with 126 and the 2008 home run title with 37 dingers.
Fielder, new to the American League might have been overshadowed by his Triple Crown teammate, but he was just as dangerous, hitting 30 home runs and plating 108 runs while batting over 300 for the first time in his career. Fielder’s .313 average was better than every other full time first basemen in the American League.
While the Tigers took the infield corner awards, the Yankees took the middle infield awards. Second baseman Robinson Cano won his third consecutive award and fourth overall. Shortstop Derek Jeter won his fifth career Silver Slugger for the Yankees, but this is the one I disagree with. I felt the Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy should have won.
Cano led all second basemen with 33 homers and 94 RBIs while hitting .313.
Yes, Jeter hit for a higher average (.316 to .238) than Hardy, but Hardy had more home runs (22 to 15), more RBIs (68 to 58) in fewer at bats. Hardy also had 30 doubles and a pair of triples to Jeter’s 32 doubles and zero triples. Again, it is my thought, but when you think of a slugger, do you think of a singles hitter or a power hitter?
The American League outfield winners were Angels rookie centerfielder/left fielder Mike Trout, Twins left fielder Josh Willingham, and Rangers centerfielder/left fielder Josh Hamilton. Trout became the youngest player to ever go 30-30 with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases while finishing second in the AL batting race. After just missing out on 30 homers (29) and 100 RBIs (98) one season again, Willingham went way past those marks with career-highs in both. Willingham finished his first season in Minnesota with 35 homers and 110 RBIs.
Just two seasons ago Hamilton was an MVP. In 2012, he showed he could still be one with career-highs in home runs (43) and was two off his career high in RBIs with 128. Hamilton finished second to Cabrera in both homers and RBIs.
In the National League, all three outfield positions were covered as Bruce is a right fielder, McCutchen is a center fielder and Braun is a left fielder, but in the American League that is not the way the award was handed out. Don’t get me wrong, all three outfielders who were selected in the American League are deserving, but there was no right fielder selected and a very deserving right fielder was snubbed. Josh Reddick led all full time right fielders with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs for the Oakland A’s in his first year as a full time starter.
The American League Silver Slugger catcher was A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox and the designated hitter was Billy Butler of the Royals.
Pierzynski hit a career-best 27 home runs to lead all catchers and was third with 77 runs batted in. It was the first time Pierzynski cracked the 20 homer plateau in his 15 year career.
Butler did not lead AL DHs in home runs. In fact, his 29 were 12 less than Adam Dunn hit for the White Sox. But he was the only designated hitter to have over 100 RBIs (107) while also hitting over .300. Boston’s Ortiz missed a lot of time in the second half, but still finished with a .318 average while hitting 23 homers and 60 RBI. Dunn hit 41 home runs and had 96 RBI, but struck out twice as much (222 to 111) as Butler did. Dunn also barely finished above the Mendoza Line with his .204 average.