Hello, heaters! With the World Series underway and baseball’s biggest stage in the main spotlight, I thought it would be fun to pull our attention towards something that’s a bit more fun for everyone! That’s right, we’re going to be making Silver Slugger predictions!
Just for a brief recap, the Silver Slugger is an award given to players at each position who are voted to have had the best offensive season at their respective position. As such, there are 3 outfielders for each league instead of LF, RF, CF, a pitcher’s award in the NL, and a DH’s award in the AL. Hitters are usually only finalists at one position, so you won’t see any position/DH double-ups.
I’m not really sure how much stock players and pundits take into these awards (we’re all aware of what Juan Soto did with the one he won last season), but they’re still fun to project. Let’s have at it!
1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR), Yuli Gurriel (HOU), Matt Olson (OAK)
2B: Marcus Semien (TOR), Jose Altuve (HOU), DJ LeMahieu (NYY), Jorge Polanco (MIN)
3B: Rafael Devers (BOS), José Ramírez (CLE), Kyle Seager (SEA)
SS: Carlos Correa (HOU), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Tim Anderson (CWS), Bo Bichette (TOR)
OF: Cedric Mullins (BAL), Teoscar Hernández (TOR), Aaron Judge (NYY), Kyle Tucker (HOU), Mitch Haniger (SEA), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (TOR), Hunter Renfroe (BOS), Randy Arozarena (TB)
C: Salvador Perez (KC), Mike Zunino (TB), Gary Sánchez (NYY)
DH: Shohei Ohtani (LAA), Yordan Alvarez (HOU), Giancarlo Stanton (NYY), Joey Gallo (NYY), Nelson Cruz (TB)
1B: Freddie Freeman (ATL), Joey Votto (CIN), Paul Goldschmidt (STL), Max Muncy (LAD)
2B: Ozzie Albies (ATL), Jonathan India (CIN), Jake Cronenworth (SD), Justin Turner (LAD)
3B: Austin Riley (ATL), Manny Machado (SD), Nolan Arenado (STL), Patrick Wisdom (CHC)
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), Brandon Crawford (SF), Trea Turner (LAD), Willy Adames (MIL)
OF: Juan Soto (WAS), Nick Castellanos (CIN), Bryce Harper (PHI), Bryan Reynolds (PIT), Adam Duvall (ATL), Jesse Winker (CIN), Tyler O’Neill (STL)
C: Buster Posey (SF), Will Smith (LAD), J.T. Realmuto (PHI), Omar Narváez (MIL)
P: Germán Márquez (COL), Max Fried (ATL), Jacob deGrom (NYM), Madison Bumgarner (ARI)
So, who’s winning each contest?
(All Stats Courtesy of Baseball Savant)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s fantastic 2021 campaign (which in most seasons wins MVP) is more than worthy of a Silver Slugger. His elite plate discipline (82nd percentile in K% and 87th in BB%), incredible power (a whopping 48 home runs), and overall consistency (1.002 OPS) makes Vladdy a runaway favorite.
In the NL, it’s a toss-up between Freddie Freeman and Joey Votto. Both had exceptional seasons, with Freeman having the edge in overall plate discipline and expected average, but Votto taking the matchup in OPS and home runs. However, Freeman had 180 hits versus Votto’s 119 in 30 more games played (159 vs 129). This is a hard matchup. However, I’m going to go with Votto, because I feel he had a more impressive season for his age, demonstrated more power, and also because I hate the Braves.
Marcus Semien runs away with this award in the AL. While the other finalists, Altuve in particular, put together solid seasons, absolutely nothing compares to Semien’s 45 home runs this year, which obliterated the record for homers by a second baseman in a season. This will be rewarded. If it wasn’t for that record, Semien’s around average statistics would pull me in another direction. Also, can we appreciate his spray chart? All his homers are pulled, except for two. That’s consistency.
Justin Turner should take the award for the NL. Despite great seasons from both Ozzie Albies and likely ROTY Jonathan India, as well as a solid campaign for Jake Cronenworth, Turner simply turned in a better season, in my opinion. However, this is an incredibly close race, and don’t be surprised if any of the four win. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, as despite lower slugging India had a higher OPS than Turner.
It might seem like Rafael Devers would run away with this award. However, José Ramírez turned in a very underrated season, accumulating only two less home runs than Devers (36 vs. 38), and a slightly higher OPS (.893 vs .890). This is going to be close, but I’m giving the prediction to Devers because of star power.
Austin Riley or Manny Machado? While the advanced metrics actually give this matchup to Machado in percentiles, Riley turned in more total hits, more home runs, and higher slugging and OPS. I’d give this award to Machado because he played a few less games, but the Braves being in the World Series and getting all the attention makes me think this is going to Austin Riley.
Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts both put together spectacular campaigns in 2021. Much like Machado vs. Riley, this is similar. Correa has the edge in the advanced metrics, but Bogaerts has a higher OPS with 1 more total hit in 4 less games played. Neither is a spectacular home run hitter, but Correa edged out Bogaerts by 3 total homers. Another toss-up, but I’m giving this to Correa, because again, star power and World Series attention.
As for the NL, I’m not even going to bother with an argument. Fernando Tatís Jr. wipes the floor with the competition thanks to his incredible metrics and whopping 42 homers to accompany a .975 OPS. Good night.
Cedric Mullins is an easy pick, having the most hits in the second-most games played. The rest? A bit harder. Mitch Haniger hit the most home runs of the group in 39, but Kyle Tucker has the best wOBA, with an outstanding .917 OPS (not to mention his spotlight in the WS). Aaron Judge always clobbers baseballs, but his high strikeout rate (25.1%) is second-highest in the group after Randy Arozarena. Comparing all these fine baseball players, I’m going to have to go with: Mullins, Tucker, and Judge. If Hernandez slides his way in there over Tucker or Judge, I wouldn’t be surprised either.
The National League gang has a lock in Juan Soto, with his .999 OPS. Then there’s Bryce Harper, an MVP candidate who hit the second most homers in the group with 35 (Adam Duvall has 38), leads the group in wOBA, and has way more hits than his close home run competition, except for Nick Castellanos, who had an insane season, with 34 home runs on a .309 average. Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates had the most total hits. The tricky situation is that one of Castellanos, Harper, or Reynolds has to be left off. I’m going to bite the bullet and predict Reynolds is left off because of the team he plays on, although I disagree with it. So we have: Soto, Castellanos, and Harper.
Yeah, yeah. Salvador Perez is a terrible defensive catcher, a strikeout machine, and gets slower every year. But, like, who cares? This is an award for offense and scoring, and the type of out doesn’t matter. 48 home runs obliterated the positional record for catchers. He’ll win this award easily.
Buster Posey’s renaissance season is rivaled only by Will Smith’s 25 homers, and J.T. Realmuto leading NL catchers with 125 hits. However, Realmuto had almost 100 more at-bats than Posey just to finish with only 5 more hits, and Buster’s plate discipline blows Smith’s out of the water. Omar Narváez isn’t even worth mentioning. Posey should win this.
While Shohei Ohtani had a season for the ages, looking solely at his hitting stats pits him against one of the best in the game in Yordan Alvarez. While their advanced metrics are pretty similar, Ohtani still wins this race pretty handily, with 46 home runs and a .965 OPS bringing it to him. Pretty impressive Shohei will win a Silver Slugger to further build on his incredible campaign in 2021.
In what is possibly the last Silver Slugger award to be handed out to a pitcher, we’re so down bad for these guys to rake that Jacob deGrom is a finalist, even though he didn’t appear in a game for the entire second half of the season. Honestly, screw it. deGrom only has about 20 less at-bats than the rest of the finalists and he had a .758 OPS before getting hurt. Just give him the award as some sort of consolation for his lost season on the mound. Can we just give this award to Ohtani too?
So, to recap, here are my predictions:
1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr./Joey Votto
2B: Marcus Semien/Justin Turner
3B: Rafael Devers/Austin Riley
SS: Carlos Correa/Fernando Tatís Jr.
OF: Cedric Mullins/Aaron Judge/Kyle Tucker & Juan Soto/Bryce Harper/Nick Castellanos
C: Salvador Perez/Buster Posey (what year is it again?)
DH: Shohei Ohtani
P: Jacob deGrom
(If I made the rules, Ohtani would win for pitcher and Yordan Alvarez could win for DH. But alas.)
Stay tuned until November 11th to find out the winners of these awards!