On November 10, the silver sluggers, given to the best hitters at each position, will be announced for both leagues. With more objective data and less guess-work, this award is generally a better indicator of performance than the gold glove award, which this man once won playing designated hitter.
Here are my picks for who should win this award in the National League.
Stat Line: .277/.309/.369 (84 OPS+), 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI
The pitching silver slugger is always a fun one because the competition is so awful. Daniel Hudson led all National League pitchers with 14 RBI (a tribute to both his skill at the plate and the depth of the Diamondbacks' order). If he wins this award, Hudson will have White Sox GM Kenny Williams to thank, since it was he who traded six years of Hudson to get 11 Edwin Jackson starts in 2010 (and in fact, Hudson’s remaining 11 starts were better than Jackson’s).
Other Candidates: Carlos Zambrano (CHC), Yovani Gallardo (MIL)
Stat Line: .305/.349/.465 (126 OPS+), 32 2B, 14 HR, 65 RBI
Well-known for his spectacular glove-work behind the plate, Yadier Molina put together the best offensive season of his career, setting career highs in runs scored, hits, doubles, homers and RBI. His final home run of the year was no doubt the biggest – a solo shot in an 3-2 Cardinals victory that put the eventual World Champions one game back with three left to play.
Other Candidates: Miguel Montero (ARI), Brian McCann (ATL)
Stat Line: .299/.415/.566 (164 OPS+), 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI
A feared presence in the Brewers' lineup for the past six seasons, Prince Fielder will likely leave Milwaukee for a nine-figure deal elsewhere, but not before helping power the Brewers' offense to their second-ever league championship series. The big man finished top-three in the National League in total bases, homers, RBI, walks, times on base and runs created, while leading the league in Win Probability Added for the third time in five years.
Other Candidates: Albert Pujols (STL), Joey Votto (CIN)
Stat Line: .300/.353/.457 (119 OPS+), 38 2B, 18 HR, 82 RBI
With Philadelphia’s Chase Utley spending much of the past two seasons on the disabled list, Brandon Phillips has taken over the reigns as the National League’s best overall second baseman. This year, Phillips hit .300 for the first time in his career and placed fourth in the league with 38 doubles.
Other candidates: Rickie Weeks (MIL), Dan Uggla (ATL)
Stat Line: .306/.361/.510 (136 OPS+), 35 2B, 26 HR, 93 RBI
Aramis Ramirez has probably played his last game as a Cub, which is good news for fans of the other five teams in the National League Central. It remains to be seen whether or not Ramirez will be able to match his production away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, but he certainly gave Cubs fans something to cheer about, with an OPS of .887 in nine years as a Cub (.871 in 2011).
Other Candidates: Chipper Jones (ATL), Pablo Sandoval (SFG)
Stat Line: .337/.384/.493 (143 OPS+), 31 2B, 16 3B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39/46 SB.
Jose Reyes won the batting title on the season’s final day (through questionable means, I might add) at a .337 clip, while also slapping a league-best 16 triples. With Reyes highly unlikely to come back to the rebuilding Mets, look for his name to be among the most highly sought-out free agents following his career year in Queens.
Other Candidates: Troy Tulowitzki (COL), Starlin Castro (CHC)
Stat Line: .324/.399/.586 (171 OPS+), 33 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40/51 SB
The National League’s best player by about a factor of 50, Matt Kemp had one of those seasons that most people can only dream of. Batting in the heart of a miserable Dodgers lineup, Kemp led the league in total bases, runs scored, home runs, RBI and OPS, and finished just one dinger shy of joining the 40-40 club.
Stat Line: .332/.397/.597 (166 OPS+), 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33/39 SB
The face of the Brewers' franchise through 2020 or so, Ryan Braun placed first in the National League in slugging and became the first Brewer since Tommy Harper in the Brew Crew’s inaugural 1970 season to hit for 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. This will be his fourth consecutive silver slugger award, as his name has become synonymous with fear for NL pitchers.
Stat Line: .301/.412/.547 (166 OPS+), 23 2B, 31 HR, 94 RBI
The best offseason move by any team in baseball was the buy-low move by St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak to bring in Lance Berkman for an $8 million deal. Back in the National League Central where he had thrived for so long as an Astro, Berkman rebounded from a rough 2010 to place third in the league in on-base percentage and fifth in slugging. The star’s bat came through in a big way in Game 6 of the World Series, when he tied the game in the tenth inning, just one strike away from elimination.
Other Candidates: Justin Upton (ARI), Mike Stanton (FLA), Matt Holliday (STL), Hunter Pence (HOU/PHI), Carlos Beltran (NYM/SFG)