Major League Baseball's annual tradition of honoring the best offensive players at each position has come again, and today the winners of the 2014 Silver Slugger Awards were announced.
Unlike the other major position player awards that take into account defensive performance, the Silver Slugger Awards are all about what happens in the batter's box and on the bases. Everything from batting average and home runs to stolen bases counts for this list.
Here are the list of players honored for their efforts in 2014:
|2014 MLB Silver Slugger Award Winners|
|Position||American League||National League|
|Catcher||Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians||Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants|
|First Base||Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox||Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Second Base||Jose Altuve, Houston Astros||Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Shortstop||Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox||Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals|
|Third Base||Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers||Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals|
|Outfield||Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays||Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Outfield||Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians||Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins|
|Outfield||Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels||Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves|
|DH (AL)/Pitcher (NL)||Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers||Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants|
This was a year of firsts for many of the players honored.
Each league boasted four first-time Silver Slugger winners. Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Jose Altuve and Jose Abreu all entered the club in the American League. According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, Abreu and Alexei Ramirez are the first Cuban teammates to win Silver Sluggers in the same season.
Neil Walker, Anthony Rendon, Giancarlo Stanton and Madison Bumgarner picked up their first Silver Sluggers in the National League.
For Bumgarner, it’s yet another accolade to add to his already loaded trophy cabinet. He’ll have to make some more room after collecting the National League Championship Series and World Series MVP Awards within the last month.
Bumgarner and teammate Buster Posey make up the first Silver Slugger-winning battery in over a decade, per Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area:
The big thing that jumps out in a list like this is how much the voters—which are comprised of coaches and managers around the league—still favor the three Triple Crown stats (average, home runs, RBI). And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
We are in an age where there are so many numbers to evaluate offensive performance that strictly using those three might seem ancient. At the same time, just looking at the winners, it's hard to argue with the lineup you could build in either league.
For instance, Mike Trout was the most valuable offensive player by any metric this season. FanGraphs had the Los Angeles Angels superstar as the best hitter in baseball this season. He did it by hitting 36 homers, stealing 16 bases and posting a .287/.377/.561 slash line.
The combination of power, speed and ability to get on base makes Trout a nightmare for opponents. There's also the irony, as Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com wrote in mid-September, of the young star having the worst statistical year of his career in most measurements yet still being regarded as a lock for Most Valuable Player:
Trout is having a career year for home runs (32) and RBI (103), but his .285 batting average is nearly 30 points below his career mark entering the season (.314) and his OPS (.922) is well below his 2012-13 production (.976)...
Trout isn't the player he was in either of the last two seasons, but he's the MVP. By a landslide. Because when you get right to it, a down year by his standards is still better than the seasons—a career year for some, down for most others—put up by everyone else.
Yet when you put the things that Trout has been able to do in a historical context, as Baseball Reference did on Twitter, it's amazing how great he can be even in a year that everyone acknowledged was a disappointment by his standards:
J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group also saluted Trout, who became the second player in history to win three Silver Sluggers in his first three full seasons:
Speaking of great years that deserved to be acknowledged, is there a hitter who is more fun to watch than Stanton? Miami has seemingly done everything to alienate its fanbase over the years, but a slugger hitting balls that make the Incredible Hulk jealous is a wonder to behold.
The Marlins slugger, who will only be 25 next season, has been the National League's most prolific power hitter since 2011. His 132 homers over the last four years lead the league, despite playing in 534 out of a possible 648 games due to injuries.
That's been the unfortunate story of Stanton's young career. He was having an MVP-caliber season in 2014 with 37 homers and a .288/.395/.555 slash line before his season ended after getting hit by a pitch in the face.
Marlins Park isn't an easy place to hit homers, which caused Simon to be even more amazed at Stanton's prodigious power:
In this era when power numbers in baseball are universally down, Stanton is a rare hitter who is hitting for average, getting on base and capable of hitting 40 or more homers. He just needs to stay healthy and the accolades will keep coming.
It's interesting to see how managers and coaches evaluate the Silver Slugger Awards in this age of baseball. It's easy to look at some cases and check off certain names, but with fewer home runs and lower averages, there are so many players worthy of the award who didn't crack the list this year.
As they have gotten used to saying in Chicago, wait until next year.
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