One is a veteran to the award and the other is a rookie. Yet, the new "Gruesome Two-some"—Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols—both put up huge offensive numbers to be named Silver Sluggers on Thursday.
Pujols and Ludwick were teammates during last year's All-Star game and now they can share another honor. The Louisville Silver Slugger recognizes the best offensive players at their respective positions and these two men did just that.
Pujols, a leading candidate for NL Most Valuable Player honors, batted .357 in 2008 with a career-best .462 on-base percentage. He slugged .653, hit 37 homers, drove in 116 runs and scored 100. He drew 104 walks, his first time over 100, and struck out just 54 times.
Ryan Ludwick's first full major league season had him put up comparable numbers. Batting nearly a .300 average with a .375 on-base percentage coupled with a .591 slugging percentage, the outfielder clearly had his best season of his career. Matching Pujols in home runs with 37, Ludwick also tacked on 113 RBIs and a team-high 104 runs scored.
St. Louis was the only National League team with more than one winner which goes to show just how battled tested this group really can be. Despite an erradic starting rotation, the offense for the Cardinals held their own.
It was the first time the Redbirds took home the award since 2005 with Jason Marquis acquiring the honors. This was Pujols' fourth award but only his first since 2004.
An odd statistic for Pujols considering his 2005 MVP season.
Never-the-less, the selections for the award not only include hard statistics, but also the coaches' and managers' general impressions of the player's overall offensive value. Since coaches and managers are not allowed to vote for players on their own team, Ludwick and Pujols certainly made a lasting impression on the league in 2008.
The award definitely helps Pujols' chances of winning his second MVP trophy. However, offense is only one part of the equation and generally MVP awards do not go to players on teams that don't make the playoffs.
The numbers are there and Pujols still has a chance against Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Mostly do to his consistency and high batting average, it will be a race to watch.
With free agency officially underway, the Cardinals now have to determine whether or not their other Silver Slugger, Ryan Ludwick, is too valuable a chip to be dealt in the off season.