ST. LOUIS -- Not everything was perfect for the Cardinals in 2010, but the heart of the order certainly did its job. That was confirmed once again on Thursday, when Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday picked up Silver Slugger Awards as the top hitters at their respective positions.
It was the fourth outfield Silver Slugger for Holliday, who won from 2006-08 but not last year. For Pujols, it's the third straight and sixth overall. His last four have come at first base, and he also won the award as a third baseman and an outfielder.
Louisville Slugger's Silver Slugger Award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers, who voted for the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National Leagues.
The award for Holliday provided further validation for the veteran outfielder, who got off to something of a slow start in his first full season in St. Louis but came on very strong. He batted .312, fifth in the NL (and just a hair ahead of Pujols) with a .390 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage, right in line with his career averages -- exactly the hitter the Cardinals hoped they would be getting when they signed Holliday to a seven-year, $120-million contract over the winter.
"With the way I started out, trying to justify the contract and trying to try a little too hard, getting off to a slow start, to be able to come back and win an award like this, I think there is some specialness to it," Holliday said Thursday. "And to have a chance to win one in St. Louis, I think there is a little bit of a special feeling to it."
Holliday racked up 28 home runs, 103 RBIs and 45 doubles. He was joined in the Silver Slugger outfield by Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun of the Brewers. Among outfielders, Holliday was second to Gonzalez in RBIs and batting average, second to Atlanta's Jason Heyward in OBP, third in slugging and fourth in runs scored.
"I'd say [it was] pretty good," Holliday said of his 2010 season. "I feel like I can improve in a lot of ways, and hope to have a better year next year and continue to get better, but I think it was a pretty good year."
On May 26, Holliday was hitting .279 and slugging .442, but from there to the end of the year, he raked. Over his final 113 games, he put up a .325/.407/.568 line with 85 RBIs in 424 at-bats.
NL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
The National League winners of the Silver Slugger Awards, with the number each has won in his career.
Brian McCann, Braves
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Dan Uggla, Marlins
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Ryan Braun, Brewers
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
Matt Holliday, Cardinals
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
"I think just wanting to do well, just to get off to a good start and wanting to prove that you're worth it, I think it's human nature to want to prove that you're worth the contract that you got," he said. "I had confidence that eventually I was going to be able to hit and do the things that I've done in my career, but obviously it was frustrating, and at times, pretty tough. I don't think it was necessarily pressure -- I think I was just wanting to do well for the fans and ownership and the general manager that entrusted their faith in me."
Pujols' selection underscores what a superb season he had -- and how odd it is that he's not favored for the Most Valuable Player Award. He won both the Gold Glove as the league's top-fielding first baseman and the Silver Slugger as the top hitting first baseman. And yet Joey Votto, who finished behind him for both awards at the same position, is the heavy favorite to be named the league's MVP -- in large part because the Reds beat out the Cardinals for the NL Central title.
Pujols paced the NL in home runs with 42 and RBIs with 118, and contended for a Triple Crown for much of the season. He batted .312, sixth in the league. He finished second to Votto with a .414 on-base percentage and third behind Votto and Gonzalez with a .596 slugging percentage.
"I'm just blessed, man," said Pujols on reaching 40 home runs for the sixth time in his career. "I'm blessed to be able to do that and use the God-given talent and be able to stay healthy for a few seasons to be able to do that."