Ortiz finishes career with seventh honor; 11 first-time winners
By John Schlegel
A powerful wave of first-time winners joined the final silver salute for an all-time great when the Silver Slugger Awards were announced Thursday night.
Red Sox icon David Ortiz collected the seventh and final Silver Slugger of his career with a farewell season for the ages, and a total of 11 hitters collected the coveted hardware for batting excellence for the first time, eight in the National League and three in the American League.
Ortiz's career haul is matched by the seven the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera has after winning again this year, and outfielder Mike Trout picked up his fifth. But there are a lot of new faces, and the future of hitting is obviously bright with 11 of the winners younger than 30.
The Silver Slugger Awards, presented annually by Louisville Slugger, honor the top hitters at each position for each league in Major League Baseball, as voted by MLB managers and coaches, who could not vote for someone on their team. This year's recipients covered the MLB landscape with 13 teams represented, and four players -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts -- earned a Silver Slugger to go along with a Gold Glove earlier this week.
Ortiz extended his all-time mark for most Silver Sluggers for a DH and became the Red Sox's all-time leader with his seventh, and he did it with a season that was beyond compare for anyone as old and definitely for anyone walking away from the game. At age 40, his 48 doubles, 38 homers and 127 RBIs were the highest for anyone 40 or older or in his last season, and his 1.021 OPS was far and away the best among DHs this season.
Big Papi was joined in the AL Silver Slugger lineup by two teammates, giving the Red Sox the only trio of winners this season. Xander Bogaerts picked up his second straight award at short with 192 hits (fifth AL), 114 runs (sixth AL) and a 26-game hitting streak -- beating out a talented field that includes the Astros' Carlos Correa and the Indians' Francisco Lindor. Betts had a breakout year, becoming the seventh Red Sox player ever to win both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season. He was the only outfielder in MLB with more than 200 hits and joined Ted Williams as the only Red Sox hitters ever with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season at age 23 or younger.
The rest of the infield consists was led by Cabrera (.316 BA, 38 HR, 108 RBsI, .956 OPS) and his seventh honor. Altuve won his third straight by becoming the first second baseman to reach 100 runs, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers, 95 RBIs and 30 steals in a single season, and just the fifth player in Major League history to do it at all. Josh Donaldson, who claimed the AL MVP a year ago, topped himself with a career-high OPS of .953.
The AL outfield consists of two first-timers in Betts and Mark Trumbo and a player who's establishing himself as one of the all-time greats in terms of not only collecting Silver Sluggers but other hardware as well in Trout. Trumbo took his game to a new level with the Orioles this season, leading the Majors with 47 homers and setting new career highs with 108 RBIs and an .850 OPS. Trout, meanwhile, just continued to be Mike Trout, delivering an MLB-high 9.9 offensive WAR while joining Mike Piazza as the only players ever to win Silver Sluggers in each of their first five seasons.
Rounding out the AL lineup of hitting stars, Perez took his first honor after a steady season in the middle of a KC lineup that was hit hard by injury. Perez broke his own team record with 22 homers and earned the double-honor behind the plate, also taking the Gold Glove earlier this week.
The NL featured a whopping eight first-time winners of Silver Slugger Awards, and Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was as surprising as any. He unseated Buster Posey as the top hitting catcher in the NL with a powerful season that was cut a bit short by a knee injury Sept. 26. "The Buffalo" led NL catchers with a .496 slugging percentage, ranking second among NL catchers in batting average (.307) and homers (22).
Ramos' teammate Daniel Murphy made his first appearance, breaking out as one of the top offensive performers in the game with a .985 OPS that was tops among all hitters in the NL and among the best ever seen at second base. Murphy was joined in the middle infield by a rookie who has leaped right into the elite -- fellow MVP candidate and very likely NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who was second in the NL with 193 hits and fifth in runs with 105, setting an all-time Dodgers mark for homers by a shortstop with 26.
On the corners, Rizzo led all NL first basemen with 109 RBIs and was among the leaders in every other category to pick up his first Silver Slugger. Across the diamond, it was the Rockies' Arenado -- not Rizzo's Cubs teammate and MVP candidate Kris Bryant, who split time between third and outfield -- who took the honors at third base, and for good reason. Arenado picked up his second consecutive silver bat with a season that almost mirrored last year's breakout year, once again leading the NL in homers (41 in '16 after 42 in '15) and RBIs (133 in '16 after 130 in '15).
All three of the outfielders from the National League are first-timers. The Rockies' leadoff hitter, Charlie Blackmon set career highs in virtually every category, ranking third in the NL in runs with 111, fourth with a .324 average and fifth with a .552 slugging percentage. His 4.6 WAR tied for the top figure among NL outfielders with Christian Yelich, who at 24 also broke out with career highs in home runs (21), RBIs (98) and slugging percentage (.483). Yoenis Cespedes, meanwhile, has been an offensive machine since he arrived with the Mets, registering a second straight 30-homer season despite missing some time with injury.
At pitcher, several of the top starters in the game have proven to be highly effective at the plate as well, and the Cubs' Jake Arrieta won the most votes this year as a consistent offensive threat, supplanting the Giants' Madison Bumgarner after a two-year run.
Here are the winners, as announced on MLB Network:
AMERICAN LEAGUE Catcher: Salvador Perez (Royals) First base: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) Second base: Jose Altuve (Astros) Third base: Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays) Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) Outfield: Mookie Betts (Red Sox) Outfield: Mike Trout (Angels) Outfield: Mark Trumbo (Orioles) Designated hitter: David Ortiz (Red Sox)
NATIONAL LEAGUE Catcher: Wilson Ramos (Nationals) First base: Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) Second base: Daniel Murphy (Nationals) Third base: Nolan Arenado (Rockies) Shortstop: Corey Seager (Dodgers) Outfield: Charlie Blackmon (Rockies) Outfield: Yoenis Cespedes (Mets) Outfield: Christian Yelich (Marlins) Pitcher: Jake Arrieta (Cubs)
With the Silver Sluggers handed out, the first week of awards season concludes Friday with the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year honors announced at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Then it's off to a four-day run of Baseball Writers' Association of America awards next week: Rookie of the Year (Monday), Manager of the Year (Tuesday), Cy Young Award (Wednesday) and Most Valuable Player (Thursday).
All four one-hour specials for the BBWAA awards will begin at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
Then the cherry will be put on top of awards season with the MLB Esurance Awards at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 18, on MLB Network, covering all the bases with awards acknowledging baseball's best on and off the field in 2016.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.