MLB Silver Slugger Awards 2013: AL and NL Winners and Analysis

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2013

With the Boston Red Sox hosting the World Series trophy and teams eager to begin their offseasons, the MLB awards season is in full bloom. Such was the case on Wednesday evening, when the Silver Slugger Awards in the American and National Leagues were awarded in a special MLB Network broadcast.

The Silver Slugger, voted on annually by coaches and managers across the league, is awarded to the best offensive player at each position—except outfield, which is generalized. Each coach and manager is allowed to fill out his ballot however he wants while using a set criteria, but cannot vote for his own players. 

Here is a look at how the 2013 awards played out:

American League
CatcherJoe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)
First BaseChris Davis (Baltimore Orioles)
Second BaseRobinson Cano (New York Yankees)
Third BaseMiguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
ShortstopJ.J. Hardy (Baltimore Orioles)
OutfieldMike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
OutfieldAdam Jones (Baltimore Orioles)
OutfieldTorii Hunter (Detroit Tigers)
Designated HitterDavid Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
MLB Network Broadcast
National League
CatcherYadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)
First BasePaul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Second BaseMatt Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals)
Third BasePedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh Pirates)
ShortstopIan Desmond (Washington Nationals)
OutfieldJay Bruce (Cincinnati Reds)
OutfieldAndrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
OutfieldMichael Cuddyer (Colorado Rockies)
PitcherZack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers)
MLB Network Broadcast

Looking at the list of recipients, it's clear just how much the 2013 season differs from its predecessor. Only six Silver Sluggers repeated from last year's list, with the nine first-time recipients taking up half of the field. 

Overall, it's hard to find too many areas of complaint.      

The American League winners are spearheaded by likely back-to-back MVP winner Miguel Cabrera. The Detroit Tigers third baseman set a career high with a .348 batting average, matched his previous high with 44 home runs and drove in 137 runs. Only Chris Davis' 53 home runs and 138 RBI prevented Cabrera from recording his second straight Triple Crown. This is his fifth Silver Slugger honor, and he's won the award at three different positions (first base, outfield, third base).

Davis, who burst onto the scene this past season with the Baltimore Orioles, was one of three first-time Baltimore Orioles on the list. The powerful slugger, who flirted with the potential for 60 home runs for much of the season, is the seventh different AL first-base winner in as many seasons.

Davis spoke with Brittany Ghiroli Orioles.com about receiving the prestigious award: 

"Receiving this award is very humbling, as there are some really great hitters that play first base in this league, so it means a lot to me.

Batting in the middle of the order, you want to pose a threat at all times, and I'm grateful that the opposing managers and coaches recognized not only the success that I had, but also the success of the team as well."

Outfielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy, both Gold Glove winners, were also honored with awards for their hitting prowess. Jones finished second on the team with 33 home runs and 108 RBI, while Hardy tied Troy Tulowitzki for the most home runs among shortstops with 25.

The Orioles were the only team with three winners, as the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates rounded out the squads with multiple Silver Sluggers.

Jul 14, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) is congratulated by J.J. Hardy (2) after scoring on a two-run home run by Chris Davis (19) in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The National League Central, widely considered the best division in baseball during the regular season, led all divisions with six.

Likely NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, winning his second straight Silver Slugger, was joined on the team this year by third baseman Pedro Alvarez. McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI and was named one of the three finalists for NL MVP.

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina, the other two National League finalists, were both honored for the first time. Though Goldschmidt has the best counting stats among the three players and was also awarded a Gold Glove, McCutchen is widely expected to take home the award for leading the Pirates to their first playoff berth in more than two decades.

Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce round out the NL Central recipients. Bruce won his second straight award, while this was Carpenter's first. 

Along with Davis and Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the third finalist for the AL MVP and was given his second Silver Slugger in as many big league seasons. A darling of the advanced metrics community, Trout's 10.4 wins above replacement made him more than two wins more valuable than any other player. While he'll likely fall short in the MVP race again, this is just the second of what should be many Silver Sluggers. 

Sep 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) rounds third base after hitting a home run against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of regular recipients, 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz added his sixth Silver Slugger to the mantle, the most among this year's recipients. Ortiz came away empty-handed for three years in a row after winning Silver Sluggers from 2004 to 2007, but has now taken home the AL's designated hitter distinction two of the last three seasons. Ortiz's regular-season stats pale in comparison to his record-setting World Series numbers, but it's safe to say the Red Sox will be more than happy with his 30 home runs and 103 RBI for years to come. 

Joe Mauer's two-year hiatus on the Silver Slugger list also ended this year, marking the Minnesota Twins catcher's fifth honor. He's now halfway to Mike Piazza's all-time record of 10 for a catcher, which he won consecutively from 1993 to 2002. 

Robinson Cano, this winter's biggest free agent by a country mile, became just the eighth middle infielder in Silver Slugger history to win four or more consecutive awards. Alex Rodriguez holds the all-time record among middle infielders with six straight awards from 1998 to 2003. 

Overall, it was a night of heads nodding, as most of the players who won were widely expected to do so.

With one exception. 

Perhaps the biggest controversy comes at the National League shortstop spot, where Ian Desmond took home the Louisville Slugger for the second straight season. Desmond was one of the few bright spots in a frustrating Washington Nationals season, leading all NL shortstops in total bases, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI.

It seems voters chose Desmond's season-long consistency over the spectacular 86-game run turned in by Hanley Ramirez. The Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop was every bit as responsible for their second-half surge as possible NL Rookie of the Year Yasiel Puig, belting 20 home runs and hitting .345 in just more than half a season. With Tulowitzki also being a finalist for the award, many expected one of the higher-profile names to receive the most votes.

Instead, it was Desmond—drawing the only semi-controversy of the evening. As the chasm between so-called statheads and traditionalists grows wider every year, there are fewer things than ever that analysts can agree on.

At least, for now, we'll always have the Silver Slugger. 

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