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Silver Slugger winners not your usual suspects

Silver Slugger winners not your usual suspects

There was a changing of the guard among the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners.

While some of the usual names appeared among the victors when the results were announced on Thursday -- including Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and Twins catcher Joe Mauer -- there were only five repeat winners from 2009, tying the record low for the amount of turnover for the 30-year-old award. The low was previously set in 1982.

Winners of the award were determined by voting conducted among Major League managers and coaches, who were asked to name the players at each position in the National and American Leagues who put up the best seasons at the plate. Voters were forbidden from voting for players from their own clubs.

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Perhaps the curiosity of this year's Silver Sluggers was best captured in the case of Vladimir Guerrero, who served as the designated hitter for the Rangers en route to the club's first World Series appearance. Guerrero won his eighth award overall, but his first since he moved from the outfield to DH. He was joined on the AL squad by his Rangers teammate Josh Hamilton, who made it for the second time as an outfielder.

Befitting the record amount of turnover, there were several first-time winners, including Rockies sluggers Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez were also named Gold Glove winners at shortstop and in the outfield, respectively.

"Year in and year out, the big priority for me is all about winning the World Series, and that should be our main focus," Tulowitzki said during a conference call Thursday with Denver reporters. "To get these awards, it means we're doing our jobs."

Of his fellow Rockies Silver Slugger winner, Tulowitzki said, "Just seeing the things he can do, I knew he was going to be a special player. ... I always say if there was one player I'd purchase a ticket, this is the guy I would want to see."

Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo took home his first Silver Slugger after he clubbed four home runs to lead all NL pitchers. White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez and Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla rounded out the first-time winners.

Mauer pulled the three-peat as the AL catcher, his fourth win overall, after leading AL backstops in batting average and on-base percentage.

His counterpart in the NL was Braves catcher Brian McCann, who also won for the third year in a row and fourth overall. McCann held off a spirited run from Giants rookie Buster Posey, and the Atlanta veteran led NL catchers in home runs and RBIs.

Pujols' honor was his fourth at first base and sixth overall. Pujols led NL first sackers in home runs, and he finished second to the Reds' Joey Votto in average in what was a robust competition. Pujols tied the Rockies' Todd Helton for the most Silver Sluggers accumulated by a first baseman; the Cardinals slugger won the award in his younger days at third base and in the outfield.

NL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
The National League winners of the Silver Slugger Awards, with the number each has won in his career.
POS. PLAYER NO.
C Brian McCann, Braves 4
1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals 6
2B Dan Uggla, Marlins 1
3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals 2
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 1
OF Ryan Braun, Brewers 3
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies 1
OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals 4
P Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 1

Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera joined Pujols as a winner at three different positions. Cabrera took the nod for the first time at first base, and the first time in the AL, after winning twice with the Marlins -- once at third base and once in the outfield.

"I think he probably gets more respect from an offensive standpoint than any hitter in the league," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he's been the best player in the league this year."

After taking home the Gold Glove on Tuesday, Robinson Cano was named the top offensive player in the AL at his position for the second time. Cano set career highs this season with 29 home runs and 109 RBIs while manning the keystone spot for the Yankees.

Uggla finally reached the top of the heap among NL second basemen, breaking a four-year run of dominance by the Phillies' Chase Utley. Uggla cracked 33 home runs this season, making him the first second baseman in history to reach the 30-home run plateau four times.

Ramirez led the AL leaderboard among shortstops in batting average, home runs and slugging, and that was enough to earn him his first Silver Slugger, breaking a four-year run by the Yankees' Derek Jeter.

AL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
The American League winners of the Silver Slugger Awards, with the number each has won in his career.
POS. PLAYER NO.
C Joe Mauer, Twins 4
1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 3
2B Robinson Cano, Yankees 2
3B Adrian Beltre, Red Sox 2
SS Alexei Ramirez, White Sox 1
OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 1
OF Carl Crawford, Rays 1
OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers 2
DH Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers 8

Tulowitzki topped NL shortstops despite missing more than a month with a broken wrist. He finished second among NL shortstops in average, but led the group with 27 home runs and 95 RBIs.

Completing the AL infield was Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, taking home his first award since 2004, when he played for the Dodgers.

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman joined Beltre as a two-time winner, taking the award for the second year in a row after he hit for a .307 average and smacked 25 home runs.

"The numbers, as far as on-base percentage and me learning to become a better hitter, they went up significantly," Zimmerman said during a conference call Thursday. "Part of my goal and part of my progression is to become an average hitter as well as a power hitter.

"When you look at guys who hit .300 and have the ability to hit 30 home runs and drive in a 100 runs in a season, there are only a handful that are out there. If you can do that consistently every year, you become one of the elite players in the league. That's my goal and pretty much every one's goal."

Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista shocked the world by hitting 54 home runs, leading the Major Leagues this season, so it wasn't a big surprise that he joined Hamilton in the AL outfield -- not even to him.

"After winning the Hank Aaron Award," Bautista said, "being an offensive award, I sort of got my hopes up a lot more for the Silver Slugger. I knew I had a chance, but nothing was official, obviously. I'm really excited. It's a huge award to receive, identifying the elite hitter at each position. I'm just really honored and humbled."

Carl Crawford was the third member of the AL trio, the first win for the free-agent left fielder, late of the Rays.

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday took home the award for the fourth time, joining Gonzalez and Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun in the NL outfield. Braun is quickly becoming an old standard in the NL Silver Slugger lineup; he won for the third year in a row.

"Whenever you're recognized for doing something at the end of the year, it's rewarding," Braun said this week. "It's nice to know that the hard work you put in has been noticed, and it's paid off."

Guerrero, playing on a one-year contract with the Rangers, hit an even .300 with 29 home runs 115 RBIs to take the AL DH nod over the Royals' Billy Butler and the Red Sox's David Ortiz. Guerrero sits fifth all-time in Silver Slugger Awards, trailing Barry Bonds (12 wins at outfielder), Mike Piazza (10 wins at catcher), Alex Rodriguez (seven wins at shortstop and three at third base) and Barry Larkin (nine at shortstop).

Gallardo was the final piece to the NL club, adding his name to the hallowed ranks of Silver Slugger-winning pitchers, which is led by Mike Hampton, who won five times, and Tom Glavine, who won four.

Sunil Joshi is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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