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Shin-Soo Choo gets boned, and other thoughts on the Silver Slugger Awards

Nov 13, 2009, 9:20 AM EDT

The Silver Slugger Awards were announced last night. Like the Gold Gloves, the Silver Slugger is voted on by managers and coaches and stuff. Which makes little damn sense. We’ve long been in a world where offensive contributions can be quantified objectively — especially compared to defense — so why there’s a vote involved is beyond me.  What’s next? Voting for the winner of the 100 meters?

But they still do it, so let’s see how they did.  In the AL we have:

1B — Mark Teixeira
2B — Aaron Hill
3B — Evan Longoria
SS — Derek Jeter
OF — Ichiro Suzuki
OF — Torii Hunter
OF — Jason Bay
C —  Joe Mauer
DH –Adam Lind

Teixeira is the right choice. Youkilis had a great season but didn’t have the plate appearances to match Teix’s overall production. Miguel Cabrera is in the conversation too, but Teix edges him almost everywhere it matters, and had the big RBI numbers that catch the voters’ eyes.

Same story could be told at third, where A-Rod had better rate stats but missed too much time. Ben Zobrist brought way more to the table than Aaron Hill did. I suppose he was docked because he only played 91 games at second base, but Adam Lind only DH’d for 95 games and he made the grade. 

Shin-Soo Choo was boned in the outfield. He created more runs than any AL outfielder and was third in OPS. Torii Hunter missed time a la A-Rod and Youkilis, but unlike them, he wasn’t docked. I’d give it to Choo over Hunter. And before you say anything, no, they didn’t need one representative from each outfield position. They could have given it to three leftfielders if they wanted to.  Apparently Indians fans weren’t the only people who ignored what was going on with the Indians this year.

In the NL it’s:

1B — Albert Pujols
2B — Chase Utley
3B — Ryan Zimmerman
SS — Hanley Ramirez
OF — Ryan Braun
OF — Andre Ethier
OF — Matt Kemp
C — Brian McCann
P — Carlos Zambrano

The NL is pretty darn good.  Pujols, Utley and Ramirez are no-brainers. Brian McCann is the right call too. I think Pablo Sandoval might have been a better choice than Zimmerman, even if he spent time at other positions (120 games at 3B). I’m sure a lot of it has to do with Zimmerman’s scorching-hot start, whereas Sandoval was more of a solid, hoo-hum producer throughout the year. I wonder if there wasn’t a little bit in the way of seniority-preferences or east coast bias at work too.

Either and Kemp are a tossup from a purely offensive perspective, but I can’t help but think that one of them should have made way for Jayson Werth.

Why they give a Silver Slugger to a pitcher is beyond me, but sure, give it to Zambrano. If you don’t he may hit you or have a nervous breakdown or something.

Of course no one ever fights over the Silver Slugger Award. We’ll save that for later this month when the BBWAA awards are announced.

  1. Old Gator - Nov 13, 2009 at 10:30 AM

    I can’t keep a straight face over your blog title, Craig. Trying to top Bob’s jelly doughnut-eating panda, are we?
    I am having conflicting albeit equally riotus visions of Choo getting it on in the middle of the outfield with one of the Indians cheerleaders while Bob Eucker calls the plays in a hypothetical Major Leagues III – the sort of thing which very well might make Clevelanders forget Howard the Duck’s interspecies lusts – and/or being filleted and served to the sparse Cleveland crowd in the next remake of Dawn of the Dead. Hoo boy.

  2. Bill@TDS - Nov 13, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    There’s a 75% correlation between the AL Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers. Six of the eight best fielders at their (non-pitching) positions, according to coaches and managers, also happen to possess the completely unrelated skill of being the best *hitters* at said positions. Uncanny!
    Of course, in most cases that’s an indictment of their GG picks rather than their SS picks. And oddly, Aaron Hill probably deserved a Gold Glove more than he deserved a Silver Slugger.

  3. clownpatrol - Nov 13, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    Craig, maybe the clown at ringling brothers would be better at selecting the gold glove and silver slugger award. Hey Bud, please make the changes as per Craig.
    buh bye

  4. scatterbrian - Nov 13, 2009 at 6:15 PM

    Shin-Soo “Big League” Choo!
    Best unused nickname in baseball.

  5. Tall Paul - Nov 13, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    “Big League” Choo?? I like it! Do I smell an endorsement deal from Copenhagen or Red Man?

  6. scatterbrian - Nov 13, 2009 at 7:12 PM

    Umm, why not Wrigley, since they make Big League Chew?

  7. awineguy - Nov 14, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    Hey Craig maybe Zobrist didn’t win at 2B because………….. he’s not a 2nd baseman ?
    Zobrist played less innings at 2B than he did in the outfield, although to be fair he does play 2nd Base as though he were an outfielder.
    Also maybe coaches, managers etc., you know the guys who run the game, aren’t quite as interested in OPS+ as “professional bloggers” and would rather have 36 bombs and 108 RBI with 103 runs scored while striking out less than Zobrist despite 140+ more plate appearances.

  8. Bob R. - Nov 15, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    No, he played 300 more innings at 2B than he did the outfield. If you used BB-Ref, I am guessing you doubled the outfield time by adding the line for outfield to the 3 lines that split it into LF, CF and RF.
    As for his defensive prowess, I do not know why you mention it as it is (or should be) irrelevant to this award, but according to every study I have read, Zobrist was brilliant at 2B. Those who watched him regularly agreed he played the position very well this year.
    I also do not know why you mention strikeouts, another irrelevant issue. That would be akin to me noting that Hill hit into more than twice as many double plays as Zobrist did. I think there is a legitimate argument for either player, but as there seems to be no consistency about rewarding playing time at a particular position, it does appear that Zobrist should not be penalized on that score.
    Hill did have 9 more home runs and doubles (Zobrist had 7 triples to Hill’s none) and 17 more RBIs (another rather silly consideration), but in just about every rate category, Zobrist was significantly better. That is particularly true about the all-important OBP stat, where Zobrist was on base an excellent 40.5% of the time while Hill managed only a rather poor 33%. That is an awful lot more outs that Hill accounted for, both in absolute and rate forms.
    You may still think Hill deserves the silver slugger, but it is not very sensible to make the argument by suggesting that Zobrist was not a worthy candidate.

  9. geekdaddy - Nov 15, 2009 at 11:14 PM

    Why give a Silver Slugger award to a pitcher? Welcome to the National League, where players are expected to be able to play both halves of an inning. Personally, I think it’s long past the time when the AL should drop the designated hitter. The NL game requires craftier managers and deeper benches, and alot of us find it generally more exciting. As for who should get it, Zambrano is always a good choice. He’s got power, he’s a switch hitter, and when he’s in the game, it’s a difference maker for the opposing pitcher. He’s not a guaranteed out, and you have to make a little more effort than 3 fastballs on the corners for a K.
    That said, I’m a little confused about how they can avoid giving it to Micah Owings. Among pitchers with at least 50 ABs, Owings had the highest average (.259), the highest slugging percentage (.537), and the second highest OBP (.281). Zambrano only had one more RBI and one more HR than Owings, but struck out 28 times versus Owings’ 19. I’ll make the disclaimer that I am a Cubs fan, and I always enjoy the recognition of my team’s players, but let me tell how that this year, we never liked facing Owings at the plate. One other commenter noted that there’s a correlation to be made between the Silver Sluggers and the Gold Glove winners, which might explain why Owings was overlooked. He only pitched 119.2 innings this year, and his 7-12 record over 19 starts with a 5.34 ERA make him easy to overlook as a starter. Plus, two stints on the DL didn’t help in that area, nor did pitching primarily out of the bullpen after getting re-activated following the shoulder injury. Still, defensive stats shouldn’t matter when determining who was the best at the plate.
    Even if you do want to choose your Silver Slugger from the best combo of hitting and fielding, you still can’t pick Zambrano. Dan Haren was ahead of him in batting average, and OBP, and not too far behind in slugging. He only put up on less RBI than Zambrano, too.
    So, yeah, I’m with you in thinking that the stats should determine the Silver Slugger, not voters, but I don’t think that you should be so dismissive of giving this award to pitchers. They may only bat 2-3 times every 5th day, but a pitcher who can swing the stick well can be a big difference maker in a game.

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