In the wake of the 2008 Gold Glove presentations, the attention has turned to offense as a cast of highly productive hitters await Thursday's announcement of the Silver Slugger Awards. The Silver Sluggers, which have been given annually since 1980 to the best offensive player at each position, are selected by the Major League Baseball managers and coaches. The managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for a player on their team.
In the American League, there were plenty of interesting possibilities as voters pondered whether David Ortiz's four-year run as the Silver Slugger designated hitter should come to an end. Baltimore's Aubrey Huff (.304, 32 homers, 108 RBIs). Milton Bradley of Texas (.322, 22 homers, 77 RBIs) and Jim Thome of the White Sox (34 homers, 90 RBIs), were among the DH candidates who carried a big stick all season.
Three American League first basemen were among the top nine in Major League Baseball in the RBI category. Kevin Youkilis (.312, 29 HRs, 115 RBIs), Justin Morneau (.300, 23 HRs, 129 RBIs) and Miguel Cabrera (.292, 37 HRs, 127 RBIs) are hard to separate. Mark Teixeira also had great numbers overall (.308, 33 HRs, 121 RBIs) but split time between the Braves and Angels.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox could be primed for a gold/silver combo. Pedroia, recently honored as an AL Gold Glove recipient, led all Major League second basemen with his .326 batting average on 213 hits. Ian Kinsler of Texas (.319 batting average) and Detroit's Placido Polanco, who was last year's AL second hbase honoree, also had big years. Polanco hit .307 in 580 at-bats.
Derek Jeter of the Yankees is in the mix for a third consecutive Silver Slugger award at shortstop after a typically consistent year at the plate. Jeter finished at .300 on the nose while appearing in 150 games. That .300 average was the best among AL shortstops.
Jeter's Yankee sidekick Alex Rodriguez has won two of the last three Silver Sluggers for AL third basemen. Rodriguez's .302 batting average and 35 homers topped AL third basemen and his 103 RBIs trailed only Baltimore's Melvin Mora, who had 104.
Catcher Joe Mauer of Minnesota is another all-around standout who could add a Silver Slugger award to the '08 Gold Glove already targeted for the Mauer trophy case. Mauer's .328 batting average was third in the Majors behind only Chipper Jones and Albert Pujols. Mauer previously won a Silver Slugger in 2006.
The Silver Slugger outfielders from the AL last year were Magglio Ordonez, Ichiro Suzuki and Vladimir Guerrero. All three posted numbers that make them worthy of consideration again. But there's considerable competition, especially from Josh Hamilton of Texas (.304, 32 homers, 130 RBIs). Nick Markakis, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye are among the other AL outfielders who no doubt drew the attention of the voters.
In the National League, Micah Owings has developed a reputation as baseball's best-hitting pitcher. Owings, who won a Silver Slugger last year by hitting .333 for the Diamondbacks, came back with a combined .303 average this year for the D-backs and Reds.
Among NL first basemen, Pujols had another monster season for the Cardinals (.357, 37 HRs, 116 RBIs) and so did Ryan Howard for the Phillies in the power department (.251, 48 HRs, 146 RBIs). San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez emerged as an All-Star by hitting .279 with 36 homers and 119 RBIs.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley bids for a third consecutive Silver Slugger at second base and has the numbers (.292, 33 HRs, 104 RBIs) to impress voters.
At shortstop, Florida's Hanley Ramirez staked his claim by hitting 33 homers to go with a .301 batting average and 67 RBIs. Among other NL shortstops who had productive offensive years were Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy (.283, 24 HRs, 74 RBIs), Chicago's Ryan Theriot (.307, 22 steals) and Washington's Cristian Guzman (.316, 35 doubles).
Jones gave Atlanta fans plenty to smile about this year by hovering above .400 for much of the season before finishing with a batting title at .364. David Wright of the Mets did all he could to push New York to the brink of the playoffs with his .302 batting average to go with 33 homers and 129 RBIs.
National League outfield possibilities include Matt Holliday (.321, 25 HRs 88 RBIs), Ryan Ludwick (.299, 37 HRs, 113 RBIs), Carlos Beltran (.284, 27 HRs, 112 RBIs, 25 steals), Ryan Braun (.285, 37 HRs, 106 RBIs) and Adam Dunn (40 HRs, 100 RBIs).
Atlanta catcher Brian McCann finished at .301 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs. Yadier Molina of the Cardinals hit a career-best .304 and Bengie Molina of the Giants hit .292 with 16 homers and 95 RBIs.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less