The Third Base Silver Slugger, Did They Get It Right?

Each year Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufacturer of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat selects recipients for the Silver Slugger Award. The Silver Slugger recognizes the best offensive player by position for each league. Major League Baseball coaches and managers vote on who they feel had the best season offensively.

With the Diamondbacks finishing in last place in the National League Western Division, very few of the players are up for any awards. In the case of the Silver Slugger award, one Diamondback has been garnering some support giving Arizona fans a ray of hope.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are no stranger to the Silver Slugger, they have had two previous winners. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez won in 2001 in recognition of the year he put together leading the team to their first and only World Series. The second Silver Slugger winner was pitcher Micah Owings who won in 2007 for his accomplishments at the plate the only other time the team made it to the National League Championship Series.

reynoldsFor the past two seasons New York Mets third baseman David Wright has won for the National League. Wright once again put up good numbers and many believed he would earn his third consecutive Silver Slugger.

Besides Wright, the other two strong contenders were Mark Reynolds from Arizona and Ryan Zimmerman from the Washington Nationals. These three were the strongest third basemen in the National League and their statistics are surprisingly similar. The question would become, what statistics do the voters look at to pick a winner.

When the Silver Slugger results were announced, it was Ryan Zimmerman who won for third base for the National League. Did the voters get it right?

Looking over the games played, Zimmerman had more opportunities playing in 157 games compared to Reynolds 155 and Wright’s 144. The extra games meant more at-bats with the trio having 610, 578, and 535 respectively.

From an overall perspective Zimmerman had more hits and runs than his two closest competitors, which should be expected, given that he had more attempts at the plate. From a batting average perspective, Wright made the most out of his at-bats with a .307 average compared to Zimmerman’s .292 and Reynolds.260.

Besides hits, Zimmerman also had more runs (110), which were 12 more than Reynolds and 22 more that Wright meaning that Zimmerman kept his team in the game more often than the others.

When it came to extra base hits, these three competitors were extremely close. Wright led the trio in doubles with 39 to Zimmerman’s 37 and Reynolds 30. Zimmerman and Wright tied with triples each having three to Reynolds one.

Home runs significantly favored Reynolds who hit 44. Zimmerman clubbed 33 homers while Wright hit only 10. While Reynolds was far and away the winner in home runs, the RBI crown went to Zimmerman who had 106 to Reynolds 102. Wright brought up the rear with 72, which is still very good.

Much is made out of Reynolds strikeout total which was by far and away higher than either of the others outpacing Wright by 83 and Zimmerman by 104. I was surprised to see that Reynolds also had the most walks with 76 compared to Wright’s 74 and Zimmerman’s 72. These are all very close but I never expected Reynolds to have more. This is a bright spot as Reynolds seems to be gaining better plate discipline.

On base percentage was also fairly close with Wright having a .390 average to Zimmerman’s .364 and Reynolds .349. Slugging percentage went to Reynolds and his .543 mark to Zimmerman’s .525 and Wright’s .447.

From the analysis it appears that the voters favored hits, runs batted in and total bases when casting their votes. These categories were clearly in Zimmerman’s favor.

The number of home runs and RBIs probably cost Wright his third consecutive Silver Slugger. While he gets on base more and hits for a higher average, he didn’t drive in enough to make up the difference in the voters’ eyes.

Reynolds clearly is the best power hitter of the three with the most home runs. Driving in just four runs fewer than Zimmerman also made a strong case. I believe the strikeout total was so high that it cast a shadow on the minds of the voters. His average was 32 points less than the winner, which could also factor into the decision.

In the case of the 2009 Silver Slugger award for National League third baseman, there was no clear domination by a single individual. A strong case could have been made for any of the three candidates. In the end it became a judgment call as to what statistics each coach placed more value in that determined the winner.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this vote was that the top three candidates all came from teams with losing records in 2009. It just goes to show that even during a difficult season you can find something to cheer about.

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