Previewing The 2012 American League Silver Slugger Awards
Who will represent the AL in the 2012 class of Silver Sluggers?
Ah, baseball's off-season. It's that time of the year where we can all sit back, relax, and talk about how much we all miss the game already.
Oh, and we can argue over minor things like the MLB Awards, too.
Of course, some of the debates, like the one for the AL MVP, got started rather early, dividing fans into pro-Miguel Cabrera and pro-Mike Trout camps respectively. That won't happen with the Silver Slugger awards, however: that's because both players are likely to take home the hardware this year, both being at the top of their respective positions in terms of offensive production.
If there are any flaws to the award, it's that it tends to overlook super-utility players, occasionally locking out players who take on a variety of positions for their teams and put up numbers that might be good enough for the award for one of them...if not for their lack of playing time there. I'm looking at you, Ben Zobrist.
Still, there's something to be said about the simplicity of the Silver Slugger awards – without the defensive side of the game to consider, they're usually fairly straightforward affairs. The list of likely AL winners in this piece aren't going to be a huge shock to anyone who have followed the game throughout the season; that said, 2012 should yield at least one first-time winner of the award – besides Trout, that is.
So, without further adieu, I humbly present the nine players that I think will make up the 2012 class of the American League Silver Slugger award winners:
C - Joe Mauer
2012 batting stats (brackets indicate place among peers): .319 AVG (1), .416 OBP (1), .861 OPS (1) 174 H (1), 10 HR, 81 R (1), 85 RBI (1)
It might not have been as good the 28-home run season that earned him the big bucks in '09, but Joe Mauer showed that he's still among the elite hitters in the game – and certainly the best-hitting catcher in the AL - in '12, after missing significant time during the season prior.
Just missed: AJ Pierzynski
1B - Prince Fielder
2012 batting stats: .313 AVG (1), .412 OBP (1), .940 OPS (2), 182 H (1) 30 HR (T-4), 83 R (4), 108 RBI (2)
It didn't push the Detroit Tigers over the top, but the acquisition of the Prince Fielder did get them back to the World Series in 2012. While he didn't slug as many homers this season as years past, Prince continued to show an evolution in his game, adjusting to pitchers attacking him outside his zone by punching the baseball the other way. It might not have been his best power season, but in 2012, Fielder was a better hitter than ever.
Just missed: Albert Pujols, Paul Konerko
2B - Robinson Cano
2012 batting stats: .313 AVG (1), .379 OBP (1), .929 OPS (1), 196 H (1) 33 HR (1), 105 R (T-1), 94 RBI (1)
No surprises here. Robinson Cano continued to show that he is easily the best-hitting second-baseman in the game, outclassing his peers in just about every offensive statistical category out there.
Just missed: Ben Zobrist
3B - Miguel Cabrera
2012 batting stats: .330 AVG (1), .393 OBP (2), .999 OPS (1), 205 H (1) 44 HR (1), 109 R (1), 139 RBI (1)
What, did you expect to see someone else besides Miguel Cabrera here? Move along.
Just Missed: Adrian Beltre
SS - Derek Jeter
2012 batting stats: .316 AVG (1), .362 OBP (2), .791 OPS (2), 216 H (1) 15 HR (4), 99 R (1), 58 RBI
Say what you will about Derek Jeter's defensive shortcomings in his twilight years, but I don't think very many folks gave him a chance to put up offensive numbers like he did this year. If he does win, it would be Jeter's first Sliver Slugger since 2009; the overall skills are certainly diminishing in his twilight years, but as long as he can still hit like this, the New York Yankees will be happy to keep their captain around.
Just missed: Ben Zobrist
OF - Mike Trout
2012 batting stats: .326 AVG (1), .399 OBP (1), .963 OPS (1), 182 H (4) 30 HR, 129 R (4), 83 RBI (2)
Though I didn't use the statistic for the other players, It's important to note that Mike Trout also stole 49 bases in 2012, nearly completing what would have been a historic 30-50 rookie season. Instead, he'll just have to settle for one of the best rookie seasons of all time.
OF - Josh Hamilton
2012 batting stats: .285 AVG, .354 OBP, .930 OPS (2), 160 H, 43 HR (T-1), 103 R (T-2), 128 RBI (1)
Josh Hamilton didn't quite put it all together in '12, saddled with a sub-par (for him anyway) second-half that really hurt his average and on-base numbers. That he still finished second in OPS among his peers, however, should tell you what kind of video game-type season he was having for the first few months of the year. Every player struggles from time to time; but when Hamilton struggles, he still manages to put up a .833 OPS.
OF - Adam Jones
2012 batting stats: .287 AVG, .334 OBP, .839 OPS, 186 H (2), 32 HR (T-5), 103 R (T-2), 82 RBI
I might be going out on a bit of a limb here, picking someone like Adam Jones, who doesn't lead his peers in any offensive category, but I like the combination of balanced production and the team narrative here. There might be better options here, but like Hamilton, I think Jones' strong start to the season (.983 OPS through June 1) will be enough to earn him a Silver Slugger.
Just missed: Alex Gordon, Alex Rios, Josh Willingham, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Ben Zobrist?
DH - Edwin Encarnacion
2012 batting stats: .280 AVG, .384 OBP (2), .941 OPS (1), 152 H, 42 HR (1), 93 R (1), 110 RBI (1)
Folks in Toronto have been talking about Edwin Encarnacion's power potential for a while now, and he finally put it together in 2012, becoming one of the best hitters in the AL after the team decided that he probably shouldn’t play at the hot corner anymore. Encarnacion did put in a little bit of time at first-base in 2012, but I didn't consider it enough to qualify him for that position. Plus, his ideal usage is as a DH, anyway.
Just missed: Billy Butler, Adam Dunn