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Batmen: 2010 Silver Slugger Awards

November 13, 2010
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"It's cool, guys- he took my Gold Glove, so I'll just take his Silver Slugger."

Of all the awards handed out at the end of the season, I feel like the Silver Slugger is actually the least controversial.  More often than not the voters have it right- veterans don’t seem to hold as much weight as they do in the Gold Glove Awards, and it’s far easier for the voters to quantify the player’s value provided with the bat.  Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if the dominant statistics used were the Traditional Trifecta- batting average, home runs and runs batted in- and they seem to generally do a pretty good job at identifying who the best hitters were at each position.

I prefer a bit more rigorous method, however, and while it takes a lot longer than just skimming their TT’s, I feel like it gives me a better, more well-rounded view as to which players were the most efficient at their position.  For the voting process I use:

  • Park-Adjusted Batting Runs (linear weights) that incorporate reaching base on errors and the impact of the strikeout.  Stolen bases and caught stealings are not included, as they’re not needed for the Silver Slugger.
  • Infield Hit Runs- the rate at which the player has infield singles above or below the league average.  It makes a tiny difference, but I’d rather give more credit to the guys that are hitting hard singles than the ones who are legging out weak ones (I’m looking at you, Willy Taveras).
  • Productive Out Runs- you know how the older analysts always talk about players saying an out is productive or unproductive?  By and large, it doesn’t make a huge difference- but there are a few players that are particularly adept at moving the runner over when they make outs.  And I want to account for this aspect of situational hitting.
  • Ground Into Double Play Runs- pretty straightforward…I want to dock players that hit into a ton of double plays (*cough cough* Pablo Sandoval *cough cough*) and reward players that stay out of them.  The less outs you make, the better.
  • A Replacement Level.  For the National League, it’s 20 runs per 650 plate appearances; for the American League, 25 runs per 650 PA.  Pretty straightforward.  I want to give players more credit for the more plate appearances they take away from bench players and the like.  And a player that is +0 runs above the league average in 300 PA hasn’t been as valuable as a player that is +0 runs in 600 PA.  Gotta give credit where credit’s due.

Catcher: Joe Mauer, +45 Runs Above Replacement, Brian McCann, +35 RAR.  No doubt about it, these two were the best hitting catchers in their respective leagues last season.  For what it’s worth, I have our own beloved Buster Posey at +30 runs, and there is no doubt in my mind that he would have overtaken McCann had he played in the same amount of time.  But, I’m not a fan of giving credit based on what we think the player will do- rather, I want to reward him for what he’s actually achieved.  I have full confidence that in a year from now, Posey will overthrow McCann.  But for now, we’ll let him bask in the glory of his last Silver Slugger.  The voters got this right, in my opinion.

First Base: Miguel Cabrera, +78 RAR, Joey Votto, +79 RAR.  I don’t think there’s really any debate that Miguel Cabrera deserves the award for the American League.  I have actual NL Silver Slugger winner Albert Pujols at a +76, so I really can’t blame the voters for choosing him.  Votto was the better well-rounded hitter, in my opinion, as he rated positive in infield hits (+1), productive outs (+1) and avoiding the double play (+1).  Albert wasn’t as much, coming out as a +0 in infield hits- and despite being a +2 in productive outs, he was a -2 in hitting into double plays.  Playing time narrowed the gap some, and I think a legitimate argument could be made that Albert is the rightful winner.  For the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate, I’m going to stick with my man Votto here.

Second Base: Robinson Cano, +59 RAR, Dan Uggla, +51 RAR.  Looks like the voters and I agree 100%.  Uggla should get a pretty decent return for the Marlins should they choose to trade him this winter.

Third Base: Evan Longoria, +52 RAR, Ryan Zimmerman, +48 RAR.  I disagree with the voters’ choice of Adrian Beltre- the man was a horrendous situational hitter, and that actually cost him the Silver Slugger in my mind.  When I say “horrendous,” I don’t mean “this guy was just kinda bad,” I mean, “this guy nearly cost the Red Sox a full win based on his inability to move runners over and penchant for removing them from the basepaths.”  Beltre was a +53 RAR hitter when looking only at his batting runs, and Longoria a +51.  I would have happily handed him the award with a pat on the back…but then you see that he couldn’t move runners over to save his life- he was a -3- and that with a man on first and none or one out, he liked to take them back to the bench with him- he was a -4- you just can’t give him the award.  A +46 RAR is outstanding, but it just doesn’t beat Longo’s overall production.

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, +21 RAR, Troy Tulowitzki, +41 RAR.  This was really interesting for me.  The AL shortstops hit horrendously this year, with their top offensive shortstop not even an above average hitter.  I nearly put Hanley at the top of the list as a formality-  Hanley was a +41.53 RAR; Tulo a +41.36.  Given the uncertainty in the estimate and that Tulo put up the same numbers with 90 less plate appearances, I think it’s fair to call Tulowitzki the winner.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton (+78), Jose Bautista (+77), Shin-Soo Choo (+57) for the American League, and Carlos Gonzalez (+61), Matt Holliday (+61), and Jayson Werth (+54).  The two picks I understand but disagree with are Ryan Braun (+50) and Carl Crawford (+53).  Werth and Braun I had virtually the same based on Batting Runs and replacement level, but the situational hitting- Braun was a -3, Werth exactly at +0- gave Werth the edge.  Also, I feel really bad for Shin-Soo Choo.  The man played on a 69-93 team and lost out on an award to a guy that was nearly half a win worse than he.  Talk about a criminally underrated player.

No DH’s or pitchers for me…

I guess I was wrong about the Rookie of the Year coming after the Gold Gloves, so I’ll just keep my big mouth shut for the time being.

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