How did M-Cab lose Silver Slugger to A-Gon?
Only one Major League hitter posted a better OPS than Cabrera, and it wasn’t Adrian Gonzalez. It was Jose Bautista. Gonzalez hit 76 points lower than Cabrera.
Cabrera posted higher on-base and slugging percentages (again, he led the league in the first category), scored more runs, hit more home runs and more doubles than his former fellow Marlins farmhand. He led such specialized stats as Wins Above Replacement (7.3 to 6.6, according to fangraphs.com), had a higher isolated power rate, had more runs created, had a higher win probability, and enough other numbers to keep going for a while.
Cabrera did not win the Silver Slugger at first base. Gonzalez did.
What gives? Well, the best explanation is that the Silver Slugger is very much like the Gold Glove. In some cases, it might be worse. This might be one of those cases, and I’ll explain why.
Like the Gold Glove awards, managers and coaches around the league vote for the Silver Sluggers. They make out their ballots toward the end of the season, but not at the very end. They have enough things to do at the very end of the season with their own teams.
With the Gold Glove ballots, that usually doesn’t matter. A great defender is seen as a great defender, no matter what happens from one week to the next, in part because defensive stats aren’t followed and aren’t changed that much in that short of a stretch. Hitting stats, of course, are a lot different, which makes the Silver Slugger a lot easier to critique.
Cabrera wasn’t leading the league in hitting with a week left in the season, and he wasn’t particularly close. Adrian Gonzalez was on his way, and his challenge was seemingly coming from Michael Young. Cabrera hit 17-for-29 with four doubles, four homers and eight RBIs over Detroit’s final eight games and turned a great season into an excellent one, maybe even MVP caliber. It was just in time to sway the batting race, too late to sway votes.
How can a batting champion not win a Silver Slugger? Pretty easily, it turns out. NL batting champ Jose Reyes was left out, too. No AL batting champ had been snubbed since Michael Young in 2005, but look over the 32-year history of the Silver Sluggers, and Cabrera is the 12th such victim on the AL side. In the National League, it’s even more common. Reyes is the 13th. Nobody, however, is going to argue that Troy Tulowitzki wasn’t deserving as the NL shortstop.
Add together the snubs, and a league batting champ makes the Silver Sluggers about 60 percent of the time. Conventional wisdom suggests that those who get snubbed usually don’t hit for more than batting average, but that’s not always the case. Larry Walker batting .350 for the Rockies in 2001 with 38 homers and 123 RBIs, and he didn’t make it. Nomar Garciaparra hit .372 in 2000 with 21 homers, and A-Rod still beat him out, just as he did when Nomar drove in 104 runs with a .357 average a year earlier. Terry Pendleton won an NL batting crown and NL MVP in 1991, but lost out on the Silver Slugger at third base because Howard Johnson led the league in homers and RBIs while hitting just .259.
Does that make it right for Cabrera to get snubbed? Heck no. But it does put some history on it.