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Bruce’s Silver Slugger should have gone to Holliday or Beltran

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.

Bruce 34 99 0.252 0.327 0.514 0.841 118
Beltran 32 97 0.269 0.346 0.495 0.842 128
Holliday 27 102 0.295 0.379 0.497 0.877 138

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)

Bruce 2012 OF 34 99 0.252 0.327 0.514 0.841 118
Gant 1991 OF 32 105 0.251 0.338 0.496 0.834 127
Santiago 1988 C 10 46 0.248 0.282 0.362 0.643 85

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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15 Responses to “Bruce’s Silver Slugger should have gone to Holliday or Beltran”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Everyone apparently digs the long ball. Baseball has become a home run worshipping sport, to the exclusion of everything else good about it. As I found out in some of my arguments about Asdrubal Cabrera, some people are more than happy to accept below average defense if they can get 15 to 20 home runs in exchange. My preferred brand of baseball, exciting fielding, stealing bases, as well as offense, has given way to home run derby baseball. Sad really.

    It’s probably just as well Bruce won the Silver slugger, otherwise if he hadn’t we would have to put up with Reds fans whining that it was Tony LaRussa’s fault.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    In 2012, the Cards encountered bad luck in terms of injuries to older, high salary players. Berkman, Furcal, Chris Carpenter, Garcia, McClellan earned around $33MM and were out of action for chunks of the season.
    Who could be injury vulnerabilities for 2013? Furcal, $7MM. Carpenter, $12.5MM. Beltran’s knee, $13MM. Jaime Garcia, $5.75MM.
    This could influence Mo’s thinking about players to target this winter. We might like a young vet like Asdrubal Cabrera, in hopes he might stay healthy.

  3. blingboy says:

    I like home runs but I don’t like cheap ones. Outfields have gotten smaller and Hitters have gotten bigger, so there are a lot of cheap home runs.

    The thing that I hate most about the homer worship trend is that now days corner outfielders don’t have to be very good fielders as long as they can bop. The number of shitty throws from corner outfielders is appalling. That can be one of the more exciting plays in baseball and its fast disappearing.

    • Kansasbirdman says:

      Best one I ever saw was actually in person (which probably has skewed my ranking) but it was last year July (29th?) when we saw the Cards play the cubs (Pujols 2,000th hit game) and Skippy Shumaker was playing right field and threw out the guy running from second to save a run from scoring it was lightning fast bullet and he got a standing O (well deserved). His usual facial expression (grimace?) never changed.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    The Red Sox gave a two year deal to a backup catcher from Atlanta, Ross. Its not everyday a backup catcher commands a multi-year contract, but Ross must have been a hot commodity.

    Right now, the 3rd string catcher on the Cards depth chart is Audry Perez, whose slugging percentage dipped during 2012 at AA. Even if Perez replaces Anderson at Memphis during 2013, we need another receiver. With exit of Bryan Anderson, we are short on catchers with experience at AAA/ML.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      The Cards are a team that pays a lot of attention to catcher. Whereas Albert left town, we paid Yadier a pile of money to stay put. Matheny was a defensive star at catcher, the former pitching coach Dave Duncan was a catcher back in his playing days. Our backup catcher last year, Laird, started in this year’s World Series. Before him, Jason LaRue had been a ML starting catcher. Mo will give careful thought about who best to recruit for catcher. If we let Anderson move on, we must want to upgrade.

  5. crdswmn says:

    This backup catcher thing has also turned out to be another segue into this idea of home run obsession. I’ve seen discussions on other Cardinals sites about the possibility of finding another back up catcher (personally I think Cruz is fine, but perhaps looking for some FA minor league catchers to stash at AAA might not be a bad idea). The first thing people seem to be focusing on is, yes, hitting, specifically power numbers. Come on, it’s a back up catcher for God’s sake. Shouldn’t his primary focus be, like, to be good at catching? Wow, what a concept.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      When Mo recruited LaRue, Jason had just spent 2008 with the Royals during which his batting average was well beneath .200. Defense and ML experience will be factors. Last year, Mo brought in Koyrie Hill, for ML experience and lefty swing. Hill later landed with the Rangers, IIRC, not a bad team. If Anderson never got a chance owing to defense, we are not likely to go for a weak defender.
      One thing to watch will be the kind of contract the catching recruit signs. If he gets a ML contract, Cruz may land back at Memphis. If he gets a minor league deal instead, like Hill did last winter, then there will be a competition.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Has anyone from the Cardinals said they plan to sign a veteran to compete for the back up catcher job? I haven’t heard mention of it being among their priorities.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        When a team has merely two catchers on its 40 man, its like a help wanted sign is hung out.
        Is Mo obliged to call reporters and divulge his every though all? No. Just feed them a few tidbits, so they can write articles during November. December and January will roll around soon enough and they can write about catchers then.
        Happily, at this site we can look ahead and not wait around for Mo to blab. Crdswmn has reported catchers are talked about at other blogs.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          I will walk some of that back. I looked at the 40 man roster for NL teams and was surprised to find only two teams with more than 2 catchers. The phils have 3, the Dodgers 5. A couple of teams had only 1 catcher.
          I still think the Cards will add a catcher this winter, but am surprised how catcher light many rosters are.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Which is why I questioned your original assumption that Anderson’s departure means another catcher will be added from outside the organization. (And I am not talking about a guy like Koyie Hill, hanging on by a thread after being a part of five different organizations this past season alone.)

            • JumboShrimp says:

              There are 50+ free agent catchers listed at MLB’s Draft Tracker. Teams can load up on them during January, to catch all the pitchers during spring training.
              I like Audry Perez. He may be a sleeper. If Perez catches in Memphis, it would be nice to stockpile a ML veteran catcher there too. This could be somebody from outside or Todd Cruz, if we find somebody good enough to displace him as Yadier’s backup. We may not want to make a lot noise about this in the press, but it would seem remiss not to explore who might be available. Mike Matheny might like to add a Matheny like player, a good defender who does not get a lot of respect in another city because a mediocre hitter.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                This winter, we have Cody Stanley playing in Arizona and sent Geoffrey Klein to Australia. Klein may be a sleeper. He hit 7 HRs for Palm Beach, not bad for the FSL and his modest experience. In college, Klein played at Santa Clara, alma mater of reliever Mike Crudale and starting hurler Nellie Briles.
                If the Cards were not add a free agent catcher, it could imply they are content with Perez, Stanley, and Klein catching AAA/AA.

    • blingboy says:

      Cruz is fine to give Yadi days off. If Yadi goes down for long we’re screwed due to both his D and his O. But we’d be just as screwed if we had a veteran, so why bother.

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