Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 AL Silver Sluggers Review

Likely MVP Miguel Cabrera headlines the AL winners
The 2013 Silver Slugger award winners were announced tonight on MLB Network. Here's my rundown of the American League recipients, all but one of whom deserved the award:

C Joe Mauer
Though he played just 113 games, Mauer did more than enough to win his fifth Silver Slugger. He batted .324/.404/.476, posting his highest OPS since his MVP campaign in 2009. No other American League catcher (except maybe Carlos Santana) came close to matching those figures. What's more, Mauer led Junior Circuit backstops in offensive runs above average, wOBA and wRC+.

1B Chris Davis
Not only did Davis prove his long-overdue 2012 breakout was legit, but he also emerged as baseball's premier power hitter. His 53 home runs, 138 RBI and 370 total bases all led the bigs, as did his 96 total bases, 11.0 AB/HR and 7.8 Win Probability Added (translation: he was the sport's "clutchest" hitter this year). His 103 runs, .634 slugging percentage and 1.004 OPS all placed second.

2B Robinson Cano
Another year, another Silver Slugger for Cano, who was far and away the best hitting keystone in the American League (not taking anything away from Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis, who had tremendous seasons in their own right). The free agent-to-be compiled impressive numbers across the board, batting .214/.383/.516 with 41 doubles, 27 dingers, 107 RBI and 312 total bases. No second baseman in either league approached those kinds of power numbers, and that's only going to help Cano's case at the bargaining table this winter. My prediction: Cano's going to get a pretty fat contract.

3B Miguel Cabrera
The Babe Ruth-ian power display put on by Chris Davis prevented Miggy from becoming the first repeat Triple Crown winner in history, but it shouldn't stop him from becoming the league's first repeat MVP since Frank Thomas circa 20 years ago. Cabrera won the sabermetric Triple Crown by leading the majors with his .348 average, .442 OBP and .636 SLG, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a small book of advanced stats I could throw at you, but I don't need any of them to convince you of what you already know: Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. His numbers would have been even more impressive had injuries not slowed him down the stretch. Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria all had great seasons too, but none of them compare to Cabrera.

SS J.J. Hardy
They got it wrong on this one. Hardy was an average hitter at best in 2013, so the award should've gone to Jed Lowrie. While it's true that Hardy led the position in home runs with 26 (tied with Troy Tulowitzki) and paced AL shortstops in RBI (76--one more than Lowrie), Lowrie clearly had the superior offensive season. His .290/.344/.446 batting line, .345 wOBA and 121 wRC+ were all tops among AL shortstops, as were his 45 doubles and 62 extra base hits. That's not saying much, what with Derek Jeter sidelined for most of the year and Jose Reyes missing a huge chunk of time, but for this award it matters.

OF Mike Trout
Trout was once again the best player in baseball. His superlative WAR total (using whatever method you prefer) bears that out. If WAR's not your bag, he excels by traditional metrics as well. His 109 runs and 110 walks led the league. He batted .323/.432/.557. He banged out 75 extra base hits, swiped 33 bags in 40 tries and reached base more times than anyone except Joey Votto. Now that's a ballplayer.

OF Adam Jones
Jones earned his first Silver Slugger by essentially replicating the numbers from his 2012 breakthrough. He notched the same number of hits, blasted one more homer, scored three fewer runs, stole two fewer bases and lost two points on his batting average. His 33 big flies and 108 RBI set new career highs as well as blowing away the power numbers produced by his fellow AL center fielders, the likes of whom were mainly speedsters such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Michael Bourn.

OF Torii Hunter
In a relatively weak class of right fielders, the 38 year-old Hunter took home his second trophy despite his unimpressive power numbers (17 homers, .161 ISO) and anemic walk rate (4.0 percent). Among AL right fielders he had the highest batting average (.304--the second highest of his career and one point better than Daniel Nava) as well as the most runs (90), hits (184), doubles (37), RBI (84) and total bases (282). If Shane Victorino and/or Jose Bautista had stayed healthy they would have won the hardware, but as it stands Hunter's the guy.

DH David Ortiz
Big Papi claimed his sixth Silver Slugger award by batting a robust .309/.395/.564 (ranking sixth, fourth and third in the AL, respectively), good for a 160 OPS+ (fourth). The 37 year-old also clubbed 38 doubles, 30 home runs and compiled 103 RBI--his most since 2007. Age does not appear to be slowing Ortiz down in the slightest as he continues to pad his Hall of Fame resume. (For what it's worth, Edwin Encarnacion had pretty similar numbers, though Papi's were a bit better.)

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