In the National League Silver Slugger Awards announced Thursday night, the St. Louis Cardinals were shut out for the second consecutive season. At catcher, San Francisco’s Buster Posey took the honor, beating Yadier Molina and others.
In the NL outfield, Carlos Beltran (three-time winner) and Matt Holliday (four-time winner) missed out as Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce took the 2012 hardware. In a head-scratcher, the latter, from the NL Central-champion Cincinnati Reds, received his first nod.
Let’s look at a summary of the 2012 numbers put up by Bruce and the Cardinals duo.
Apparently, the voting managers and coaches are like chicks, in that they dig the long ball.
With the exception of Bruce’s 34 home runs and the associated bump in slugging, Beltran – and especially Holliday – clearly had a better season with the bat. The home runs seemed to be enough for voters to disregard Bruce’s subpar (for Silver Sluggers) .252 batting average.
Beltran’s OPS was only one point better than Bruce, but when taking into account the fact Bruce played half his games in Great American Ballpark, the Cardinals right fielder’s OPS+ advantage grew to 10 points.
Holliday’s case is even stronger.
Despite hitting fewer home runs, Holliday drove in 10 more of his teammates than did Bruce. The Cardinals left fielder’s batting average was 43 points higher; his on-base percentage was 52 points better; his OPS was 36 points higher; and his OPS+ was 20 points higher.
I asked researcher Tom Orf to help me identify how unusual this selection of someone with such a low batting average is. 2012 marked the 33rd year of the Silver Slugger Award. Putting aside pitchers, 264 Awards have been given (33 years times eight positions) in the NL.
Of the 264 NL position player winners, 261 had a higher batting average than Bruce. That’s right – only two Silver Slugger Award selections from the league ever posted a lower average during their winning season.
Bruce narrowly avoided having the worst batting average of any NL Silver Slugger Award winner from the outfield in these 33 years, edging Atlanta’s Ron Gant in 1991 by just .001. He missed San Diego catcher Benito Santiago in 1988 by .004. No Silver Slugger has ever been been voted to an NL infielder with a lower batting average than Bruce.
Lowest batting average, NL Silver Slugger winners, position players, award history (1980-2012)