A Look At The A.L. Silver Slugger Winners

The A.L. Silver Slugger Awards were announced on Thursday. There were some snubs, says Tyler Hissey.

The managers and coaches made some pretty big gaffes in the Gold Glove balloting this year. Granted, it is difficult to quantify defensive value; there have been advancements in new metrics, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

When it comes to handing out offensive awards, on the other hand, the process is considerably easier. At least it should be.

Well, the Silver Slugger awards were handed out this afternoon, and there were once again some serious snubs.

In a chart that I put together, I listed the winner of the Silver Slugger Award at each position in the American League. For several important offensive categories—from batting average to OPS—I listed each winner's stats and league positional rank in the respective metric.

A B C D E F G H
1 S.S. Winner Stats (Rank at position in league) BA OBP SLG OPS HR RBI VORP
2 1B- Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins .300 (2) .374 (3) .499 (4) .873 (4) 23 (5) 129 (1) 45.5
3 2B- Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox .326 (1) .376 (2) .493 (2) .869 (2) 17 (3-TIE) 83 (2) 62.3
4 3B- Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees .302 (1) .392 (1) .573 (1) .965 (1) 35 (1) 103 (2) 65.6
5 SS- Derek Jeter, New York Yankees .300 (1) .363 (1) .408 (2) .771 (2) 11 (4) 69 (3) 37.5
6 OF- Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers .304 (5) .371 (8-TIE) .530 (3) .901 (2) 32 (5) 130 (1) 57.1
7 OF- Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox .288 (14) .394 (2) .571 (1) .965 (1) 36 (1) 100 (4) 52.3
8 OF- Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians .268 (20) .374 (7) .502 (5) .876 (6) 33 (3-TIE) 90 (9) 62.7
9 C- Joe Mauer, C .328 (1) .413 (1) .451 (1) .864 (1) 13 (4-TIE) 85 (1) 55.5
10 DH- Aubrey Huff, Baltimore Orioles .304 (2) .360 (2) .552 (2) .912 (2) 32 (1) 108 (1) 58.4

This makes it pretty easy to see which players deserved to win, and which players simply did not.

Morneau did not deserve to win the award at first base. He had a fine season—.300/.374/.499—but the voters apparently selected him for his RBI total, 129. This is unfortunate, because RBIs are a function of opportunity, and are thus a poor tool on their own for comparing hitters. In the stats that really have a direct impact on scoring runs and winning (OBP, OPS), he ranked third and fourth, respectively, at his position.

Kevin Youkilis should have won instead; he ranked higher in every category except RBIs. Youkilis simply had fewer RBI chances, and actually had a better slash stats line with runners in scoring position than the winner. The Boston infielder batted .374/.445/.708/1.091 OPS with RISP. Morneau, though he was excellent with men on second and third in his own right, ended up at .348/.443/.602/1.045 OPS; essentially, he only had more opportunities.

Carlos Pena, of the Tampa Bay Rays, would also have been a better choice here.

Clearly, then, the Morneau M.V.P. discussion is fairly misguided, especially considering his position and defensive indifference.

At second base, one could make the case for Texas Rangers star Ian Kinsler. Kinsler missed a large chunk of time with a season-ending injury in August, though. Pedroia had an excellent offensive season, anyway, and will garner serious consideration for M.V.P. He nearly won a batting title, hitting .328. But he finished second at the position, behind Kinsler, in nearly every other category. He was more valuable overall than his second base counterpart from Texas when defense is factored into the equation, but offensively—the criteria for this award—he was not the best candidate.

Rodriguez was an easy choice at the hot corner. He had a down season by his standards, but led the position in nearly every category except RBIs. Although he took some flack, it is hard to criticize any player who posts a.573 slugging percentage, .965 OPS and ranks in the top 10 in the majors in V.O.R.P. His partner on the left side of the infield, Jeter, was justified in winning at shortstop. He is no longer that great in the field, but he is still a productive hitter; .300/.363/.408 is exceptional at the position.

Hamilton, the majors' RBI leader and Quentin, the frontrunner for M.V.P. until his season-ending injury, are each deserving of the honor. They each finished in the top three among A.L. outfielders in OPS. Quentin broke out in his new surroundings in Chicago, ranking first in home runs and OPS, second in OBP and fourth in RBIs.

Sizemore is one of the best all-around outfielders in the majors and has great on-base skills, but he only finished in the top five in two categories: home runs (tied for third) and slugging percentage (fifth).

Jermaine Dye (.885 OPS), Vladimir Guerrero (.886), Nick Markakis (.897) and Magglio Ordonez (.869) all could have been selected for the third spot.

Mauer at catcher was perhaps the easiest choice at any position. He is a true rarity—a strong defensive catcher who can hit. He won his second batting title while getting on base at a plus-.400 clip; he is not only the best-hitting catcher in his league, but all of baseball.

Huff was a force in Baltimore. He had one of the best single-season performances of his career—even better than his 37-home run campaign with Tampa Bay—finishing with 32 homers, a .912 OPS and 108 RBIs.

But the DH silver bat should have gone to Milton Bradley, who hit .321/.436/.563, with a DH-best .999 OPS.

There were not any major, major blunders, but again the managers and coaches erred in a few of their selections.

To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.

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