2016 Silver Slugger Awards

The 2016 Silver Slugger award winners were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. While the Gold Glove Awards given out on Tuesday focused on the defensive side of baseball, the Silver Slugger awards are given annually to the best offensive player at each position in both theimages1 American League and the National League.

Marking the 37th annual Silver Slugger awards, which began in 1980, the awards are voted on by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (managers can not vote for their own players), with voters considering several offensive categories in selecting the winners. Those categories include batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, in addition to coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.

Barry Bonds’ 12 career Silver Slugger awards stand as the most all-time by a single player at any position, and no one from this season’s winners are even close. Here are the list of winners with my thoughts on each:

OUTFIELD

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Bonds holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as an outfielder, with twelve.

NL Winners – Charlie Blackmon (1st career), Christian Yelich (1st career) and Yoenis Cespedes (1st career)

AL Winners – Mark Trumbo (1st career), Mookie Betts (1st career) and Mike Trout (5th career)

For Mike Trout, it was business as usual on Thursday, as he won his fifth career Silver Slugger award — having done so in all of his full seasons in the big leagues. For the other five winners, they were all first-timers, as Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich, Yoenis Cespedes, Mark Trumbo and Mookie Betts each took home their first career hardware for their hitting.

FIRST BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Miguel Cabrera holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a first baseman, with seven.

NL Winner – Anthony Rizzo (1st career)

AL Winner – Miguel Cabrera (7th career)

Miguel Cabrera further increased his lead in regards to number of Silver Sluggers as a first baseman, winning his seventh in his Hall of Fame career. On the other side, World Champion Anthony Rizzo won his first Silver Slugger award for his career, but he very well could win several more before all is said and done.

SECOND BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Ryne Sandberg holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a second baseman, with seven.

NL Winner – Daniel Murphy (1st career)

AL Winner – Jose Altuve (3rd career)

After the seasons that both Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve had, it was no shock to see them win the Silver Slugger award. Murphy picks up his first, while Altuve takes home the honor for the third time in his career. Whether they can each keep up their amazing 2016 season into 2017 is yet to be seen, but more Silver Sluggers could be on the horizon for them.

THIRD BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Wade Boggs holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman, with eight.

NL Winner – Nolan Arenado (2nd career)

AL Winner – Josh Donaldson (2nd career)

Nolan Arenado is going to go down as one of the best all-around third basemen in history when all is said and done, further adding to his career resume with his second career Silver Slugger. Josh Donaldson also picks up his second award, doing so by having a year much like his MVP-winning season in 2015.

SHORTSTOP

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Larkin holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a shortstop, with nine.

NL Winner – Corey Seager (1st career)

AL Winner – Xander Bogaerts (2nd career)

The future appears to be bright at the shortstop position, as Corey Seager and Xander Bogaerts look to be the top players at those positions for quite some time to come. Although anything can happen in the future, them each winning many more Silver Slugger awards seems very likely.

CATCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Piazza holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a catcher, with ten.

NL Winner – Wilson Ramos (1st career)

AL Winner – Salvador Perez (1st career)

Both Wilson Ramos and Salvador Perez picked up their first career Silver Slugger awards, but each have had plenty of great seasons to this point in their careers. However, they took things to another level in 2016, making them each extremely deserving of the award win.

PITCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Hampton holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a pitcher, with five.

Winner – Jake Arrieta (1st career)

Pitchers are generally known as the worst hitting players on any given team’s roster, but there are a few of them who can actually swing the bat fairly well. One of those such players is Jake Arrieta, who can really put on a show at times throughout any given season, in addition to being one of the best pitchers in the game.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: David Ortiz holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a Designated Hitter, with seven.

Winner – David Ortiz (7th career)

In his last season before retirement, David Ortiz had one of his best overall seasons of his career. At age forty, Ortiz posted numbers that would be considered amazing for someone even half his age. With him no longer going to be the designated hitter for the Red Sox, it’s fitting to see him go out with one final Silver Slugger win.

Ichiro Suzuki Nearing Two Ultimate Hit Milestones

Although it won’t officially count in the record books, Ichiro Suzuki is on the verge of surpassing the all-time hit record of 4,256 professional hits, set by Pete Rose over the course of his would-be Hall of Fame career. Sitting on 4,255 combined pro hits between Major League Baseball and Japan’s equivalent level Nippon Baseball League, Ichiro is just two hits shy of having the most hits in professional baseball history.

SuzukiHowever, as previously stated, it won’t go down as the official record for hits in Major League Baseball history, as 1,278 of Ichiro’s career hits came over in Japan and therefore don’t count towards his career numbers here in America. But regardless, it’s still an amazing accomplishment.

Ichiro first broke into the majors back in 2001 at age 27. That year with the Mariners, Ichiro recorded one of the best first seasons in MLB history. With 242 hits, a .350 average and 56 stolen bases, Ichiro walked away with the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, along with a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and an All-Star appearance. Quite the haul for a player in their very first year.

Going on to have nine consecutive superstar level seasons following 2001, including nine more Gold Gloves, nine subsequent seasons of 200+ hits (including the single-season record of 262 back in 2004) and nine more All-Star games, Ichiro hasn’t been on the same level since his last star season in 2010. But that doesn’t matter. He’s still an all-time great and a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer.

His approaching milestone of 3,000 career MLB hits is further evidence of that. Although Ichiro has slacked off a bit in his seasonal numbers since leaving the Mariners in 2012, he is still fun to watch, and can still hit with the best of them. Now just 23 hits away from becoming the 30th player to reach the 3,000 hit mark, the 42-year-old Ichiro is certainly still an MLB-level talent.

Even though he won’t go down in history as the all-time hits king — Pete Rose would seem to be happy about that — Ichiro will definitely go down as the best all-around player to ever come out of Japan, and one of the best in the entire history of Major League Baseball.

Hit-record or not, Ichiro is still in a class all his own.

Could We See a 30-Win Pitcher in 2016?

More and more as time goes on, the win statistic is becoming less and less relied upon when it comes to determining how good a pitcher is performing over the course of any given season. Given, there are many better stats to look at — ERA being the most comprehensive one — to determine whether or not a pitcher is having a good year, but the win isn’t completely worthless as some suggest. Detroit Tigers

After all, to receive the individual win, the pitcher had to place their team into position to pull out the victory in the ballgame. Although pitchers can still record a win after giving up 8 runs, as long as their team scores more runs in that given game (that’s what makes the pitcher-win controversial), the win is still something that a pitcher strives to notch each and every time out on the mound.

But not since 1968 has the baseball world seen any pitcher been able to record 30 or more wins. It was in that year that the Tigers’ Denny McLain tallied 31 wins in his campaign that saw him going on to win both the Cy Young award and MVP. You simply don’t see pitchers having seasons such as that one anymore. But if things continue as they have so far, it could in fact happen once again this season.

In order to have a chance of breaking the nearly 50-year drought of thirty wins in a season, a pitcher needs to be nearly perfect on the year. Back when Denny McLain recorded his milestone season, it took him 41 starts, as opposed to the 32-34 starts pitchers receive in today’s game, making perfection a necessity.

With that in mind, there are four pitchers who I feel have the only remaining shots at the coveted 30-win season this year: Rick Porcello, Jordan Zimmermann, Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta, who have all won every single start they’ve made this season.

Porcello is the least likely of the four to keep up the win streak, in my mind. While he’s had a decent season in a struggling Red Sox rotation, he’s also been the beneficiary of timely run-support. Porcello gave up ten total earned runs over his first three starts, but has settled down recently, not allowing a single earned run since April 20th. Even so, I don’t see his win-streak continuing.

StartersAs with Porcello, Zimmermann isn’t very likely to keep up his perfect start to the season, but that isn’t meant to take away anything from the start he’s had this year. Posting a 0.55 ERA over his first five starts, Zimmermann is truly breaking out as one of the top pitchers in the game. But despite playing in a Tigers uniform — the same as McLain back in 1968 — I don’t see another 30-game winner in Detroit.

Chris Sale has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the recent history of the sport, but I’m not convinced that he can hold things together to record a 30-win year. Even so, sitting at 6-0 on the season, with a 1.66 ERA, Sale is continuing to impress the baseball world with how good he is, and he’s seemingly only getting better. Perhaps he will end up proving me wrong when all is said and done.

However, if I had to put money on which of the four pitchers on my list I feel has the best shot at 30 wins this year, I would go all in on Jake Arrieta. There is no other pitcher in baseball who has been more dominant than Jake Arrieta since the second half of last season. After picking up another win on Tuesday night, Arrieta becomes the first Cubs pitcher since Mordecai Brown in 1908 to begin the year 6-0. That’s absolutely amazing when you think about it.

Despite the great starts the aforementioned starters have gotten off to in 2016, a 30-win season is obviously very difficult to achieve. Given all of the obstacles pitchers have to overcome in getting there, the odds of it happening yet again aren’t all that great. But even so, my pick to accomplish the feat, Jake Arrieta, has already defied all logic by going 17-0 over his last 19 regular season starts, dating back to last season.

The odds of that happening weren’t great either.

Trevor Story Wasting No Time Setting Records

Any time a baseball player makes their MLB debut, it’s bound to be a special day for them. When it happens on Opening Day, it makes it all that more thrilling. But Trevor Story has taken things a step further, not only doing both of the aforementioned things this season, but also exploding onto the scene with the Rockies.  Story

In his brief, three-game MLB career, Story has already accomplished something that no other player in baseball history has ever been able to do. Over the course of his first few games in the bigs, Story has proceeded to launch four home runs (one of which was off 2015 NL Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke), hitting at least one in every single game he’s played, and becoming the first player to ever do so in three straight games to lead off their career.

After a strong Spring Training showing, the Rockies felt confident that Story could be brought up to the majors to fill the void left by Jose Reyes during his absence from the team, but no one could have anticipated Story performing the way he has to this point.

Story is now batting .286 on the season (his only four hits have been home runs) with 4 home runs and 7 RBI’s over the course of three games, and has gone from an under the radar prospect in the Rockies farm system to a star overnight. While I’ll be the first to admit that Story inevitably won’t be able to keep up this historic pace, currently hitting a home run every 3.5 at-bats, it’s still amazing to watch while it lasts.

But while Story will ultimately not reach his on-pace number of 200+ home runs for the season, all signs point to him continuing to produce quality number for the Rockies, likely for years to come. While Corey Seager was the heavy favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award after his terrific stint with the Dodgers towards the end of last season, it appears that Story is going to give Seager a run for his money.

Although this is baseball, where guys can go from being red hot to ice cold in the matter of a single game, Story is well on his way to breaking his career high of 20 home runs set last season in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A. After all, Story is yet to play a single game at home in Coors Field, where the ball is known to fly out of the park.

It’s crazy to think, but Trevor Story might be just getting started.

Could We See Multiple 50-Homer Players in 2016?

Ever since Babe Ruth burst onto the scene in 1919 with his single-season record breaking year of 29 home runs (more than some entire teams back then) — subsequently leading to his many superstar seasons that included 60 home runs in 1927 — baseball has been in love with the long ball. In fact, ever since 1983 there has been at least one player each and every season to hit 40 or more home runs, showing just how much baseball has come to depend on the big fly.Ruth

With 40 home runs no longer being quite the extraordinary feat that it was back when Ruth was in the middle of his Hall of Fame career — nine total players hit 40+ in 2015 — the new number of astonishment has risen to 50 or more homers in a season, which hasn’t been done in the past two seasons.

The most recent player with 50 or more homers in a season was Chris Davis in 2013, when he hit 53 with the Orioles. But I feel that there is a good chance of at least one player basting 50 homers in 2016, with the slightest of chances that multiple players accomplish the feat.

While more than one player hitting 50+ home runs would seem somewhat unlikely, it’s not as rare as you might think. Sure it’s tough to do, but it was done as recently as 2007 when Alex Rodriguez (54 homers) and Prince Fielder (50 homers) did just that. It was also done in 2006, 2002, 2001, 1999-1996, 1961, 1947 and 1938, with four players hitting 50 or more in both 1998 and 2001.

I don’t see another 1998 or 2001 on our hands, but I do feel that 2016 could become the 12th season in MLB history with two or more players hitting over 50 home runs in a single season.

Of all of the player in baseball, there are three who I feel stand the best shot at 50 this season: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis and Bryce Harper.

Giancarlo Stanton was injured for most of the 2015 season, but as history has shown, he has just as much power as anyone in baseball right now, and is right up there with the all time great power hitters. In the 74 games he did play in 2015, Stanton blasted 27 home runs. If you were simply to double those numbers, Stanton would’ve theoretically hit 54 home runs in 148 games played. While those numbers can’t be taken literally, due to them being mere projections, Stanton undoubtedly has 50+ home run potential, and with the Marlins moving in the fences, I think 2016 will finally be his year if he can stay healthy.

50HomersBut even though Stanton has the best shot at 50, I think Chris Davis, who is no stranger to big production numbers, has a good chance as well. In 2015, Davis hit 47 home runs, but had 4-5 additional homers robbed by fantastic plays in the outfield over the season. Even so, Davis actually has a 50-homer season under his belt, as previously stated, hitting 53 in 2013. Returning to the Orioles for the next seven seasons, Davis is likely to hit well over 200 home runs over the course of that contract, and I could easily see him popping 50 of them in 2016 alone.

The last of the players on my top three 50 homer candidates list is Bryce Harper. He’s still extremely young, at just 23 years old, but having hit 42 home runs last season, I could envision 50 from him in 2016. His power is undeniable, and with him taking a fantastic approach at the plate last year — either drawing a walk or waiting for his pitch and crushing it — I think Harper will continue to produce MVP caliber numbers for the next several seasons. Whether or not he surpasses 50 homers in 2016 is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Despite the fact that Spring Training hasn’t even begun, it’s never too early to glance towards the regular season, and I have the feeling that 2016 is going to be an unbelievable year around Major League Baseball. Although there’s the chance that my prediction is way off and no players at all hit 50 or more home runs this coming season, the potential for it to occur is there. That’s more than enough reason to get people around the baseball world excited for the regular season to get underway in less than two months.

Griffey & Piazza Elected to Hall of Fame

After a 2015 Hall of Fame class that saw four great players getting elected, many people around the baseball world spent the past year speculating as to which players would receive the necessary 75 percent of the vote to receive induction into the Hall of Fame the next time around. On Wednesday, the long wait was finally over, as it was announced that Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza had officially been elected as the 2016 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Hall of Fame

Ken Griffey Jr. received 99.3 percent of the total vote, good for the highest election percentage ever for any player in Hall of Fame history, passing Tom Seaver who held the previous record of 98.84 percent back in 1992. Many thought that Griffey’s 2,781 career hits, 630 home runs and 1,836 RBI’s would have been enough to earn him the honor of being the first unanimously elected Hall of Famer in history, but somehow 3 of the 440 voters found a reason not to cast a vote for him. Not many people can wrap their heads around the fact that three people somehow chose to not vote for Griffey Jr., but it is what it is. He was elected — that’s all that matters.

Mike Piazza was the only other player elected, with him receiving 83 percent of the vote. I’ve always felt that Piazza was worthy of the Hall, but it took him a total of four times on the ballot for him to finally break through. He is somewhat of a controversial pick, with him not having the best stats, but the voters decided that he was a Hall of Fame player, making the jump up from 69.9 percent just a year ago. One of the best catchers of all time, Piazza recorded 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI’s and 427 homers over the course of his career. As a 62nd round pick, Piazza goes to show that any player who has the talent and puts in the work has the potential to put up an amazing career no matter where they’re drafted.

Players I selected as part of my unofficial ballot who didn’t receive a nod from the voters include Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman, who I viewed as worthy but still didn’t make it in. But despite the fact that they didn’t make it in once again, Raines saw a big jump up from 55 percent in 2015 all the way up to 69.8 percent this year. With him heading into his final year of eligibility in 2017, it remains to be seen if Raines will be elected. However, receiving 67.3 percent of the vote this year in his first time on the ballot, Trevor Hoffman will likely be elected in within the next year or two (as will Jeff Bagwell, who came within 15 votes in 2016).

But there are a number of players who will likely never make it into the Hall. Other than the thirteen players who will be knocked off the ballot heading into next year due to receiving less than the five percent needed — Jim Edmonds and Nomar Garciaparra being the most notable — there are several players who don’t seem to be headed to the Hall anytime soon.

Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — the big three most connected to PED use who would all be slam dunks otherwise — received just 12.3, 44.3 and 45.2 percent, respectively, meaning the end of the road for McGwire who was in his final year on the ballot. Clemens’ 45.2 percent of the vote put him closest to making it into the Hall of Fame this year, but he would’ve needed 131 people to change their vote for him. I simply don’t see that happening, with the same holding true for every other player on the ballot with fewer percentage points than him this year.

It’ll be interesting to see which players make it into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Corey Kluber Dominates for First Time In 2015

John Lackey had a decent start on Wednesday night against the Indians. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Lackey threw shutout ball in the remainder of his 5.1 inning outing, striking out two batters along the way. But Lackey’s adversary, Corey Kluber, struck out quite a few more batters in his own impressive start.Kluber

Lasting a sufficient eight innings of the ballgame — going 6.2 innings before allowing the first and only hit of the game for the Cardinals — Kluber struck out a career high 18 batters, tying the Indians’ all-time strikeout record by a single pitcher set by Bob Feller back in 1938.

After starting the season 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA over 7 starts, this amazing outing by Kluber wasn’t merely important to get him back on track, but a big deal for the rest of the team as well. Picked by many to at the very least contend for a Wild Card spot, the Indians are currently in last place in the division, having won fewer games than every other team in the American League, and needed a boost.

But this sudden turn around isn’t anything new for Kluber. After all, Kluber held a 4.32 career ERA through 2013 before exploding onto the scene in 2014. That year, Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, earning him the Cy Young award, and subsequently a 5-year, 38.5 million dollar contract extension from the Indians.

The Indians are going to need the Corey Kluber they paid for — the one like they saw on Wednesday night — for them to have any shot at meeting the preseason expectations set by many. Their offense has been underperforming, with only four of their players hitting above .300, and three of their starters ERA’s sit above 4.00. There has to be some point that the Indians finally click.

It will be interesting to see if Wednesday’s start by Kluber can get things going.