For those distracted by football and basketball, Major League Baseball is in the process of recognizing its outstanding players from the 2009 season. The biggies are still in the pipe, but those generally go to the right individual. At the very least, the final voting shows an appropriate depth of consideration and analysis even if the you don't agree with it.
Ultimately, a good faith effort is all anyone can reasonably demand during an entirely subjective exercise.
On the other hand, both the American League and National League Gold Gloves prove a disturbing absence of that similarly sincere effort to tab the right winner. Some of the gloves dipped in gold were so obvious it was impossible to blunder away their trophy. However, the really telling selections were Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins as the respective Gold Glovers from shortstop—the voters made the most egregious errors at arguably the most important defensive spot (catcher is the only other spot in the conversation).
Now, the Sliver Sluggers (given to the best offensive player at each position) have been revealed in both leagues and we're seeing an abandonment of common sense and due diligence once again.
For example, take the Senior Circuit's representative at third base, the Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman. While Zimmerman was unequivocally the best selection for the hot corner's Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger he got is a blatant example of the negligence plaguing both awards.
Compare the year accumulated by the Nats' third baseman with that put together by the San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval:
|Zimmerman||610 ||110 ||37||3||33||106||72||119 ||0.292 ||0.364 ||0.525 ||0.888|
Put Zimmerman's huge lead in runs-scored and the smaller-yet-substantial one in runs batted in to the side for a second because I'll get to them.
Without those two categories, Sandoval becomes the leader in everything except homeruns, at-bats, and walks. Furthermore, most of the leads are significant—seven extra doubles, two extra triples, 36 fewer whiffs, 38 points of batting average, 23 points of on-base percentage, 31 points of slugging percentage, and 55 points of on-base-plus-slugging percentage (although that's double-counting).
Based on that picture, the Little Panda's leads in OBP and slugging percentage mean he did a better job of getting on base and hitting for power. In other words, Zimmerman might have a lead in walks (20) and bombs (8) based on the raw numbers, but Sandoval actually had the better season as far as the skills—of which those categories are partial embodiments—are concerned.
But what about those runs scored and batted in? Surely an advantage of 31 in the former and 16 in the latter decide the matter in Ryan Zimmerman's favor, right?
Runs-scored and runs batted in are more functions of the team around you since the only way you can score yourself is via the round-tripper. If the National had a huge lead in homers, then the margins in runs and RBI would be relevant. Of course, Zimmerman only leads the Giant by eight and that accounts for half the RBI, but less than a third of the runs-scored (the more persuasive argument for Zimmerman). Consequently, it's tough to argue the huge lead in runs-scored and substantial one in RBI are accurate reflections of the individual prowess.
Especially given the disparity in offensive strength at work.
The Washington Nationals were horrendous in 2009, but not because of their bats. The squad's splinters ranked firmly in the middle of the NL pack. Conversely, the offensive impotence of los Gigantes has been well-established—ranking dead last or near the bottom across the board.
When you really look at the situation, it appears Ryan Zimmerman was named the best offensive third baseman in the National League because he had a stronger supporting cast.
The impression becomes indelible when you factor in one more thing—performance with ducks on the pond (i.e. runners on, not necessarily in scoring position):
|Player||AB||R||2B||3B||HR ||RBI ||BB||SO ||AVG||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|Sandoval||258 ||67 ||17 ||2 ||13 ||78 ||27 ||34 ||0.357 ||0.416 ||0.589 ||1.005|
Yep, I'd say advantages of almost 100 points in average and almost 200 points in OPS with runners on indicates it was simply a lack of opportunity that kept Pablo Sandoval from approaching Ryan Zimmerman's totals in runs and runs batted in.
Nor was this terribly difficult to parse out for someone who pays close attention to Major League Baseball. So why did it get overlooked?
Not only that, this is only one of 18 such awards handed out. I'm sure there were other, equally egregious injustices handed out with silver plating.
My parents always told me that a job worth doing is a job worth doing right. The logical corollary is that if a job isn't done right, then it's not worth doing.
And that means Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers should've gone the way of the dodo many moons ago.