David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts earned the American League Silver Slugger awards at designated hitter, shortstop, and right field respectively.
You probably could have called the award for David Ortiz in mid-May. 40-year-old players closing out their careers are supposed to be wrapping things up a few years too late, having held on through the decline and then belatedly announcing that this, indeed, is the end. They aren’t supposed to be leading the damn league in OPS and putting up one of the best seasons of a career which will land in the Hall of Fame so long as the DH doesn’t prove completely toxic. David Ortiz had no business being as good as he was. 40-year-olds don’t hit .315/.401/.620, but that is exactly what one of the greatest players in Red Sox history did. It takes a lot for a DH to even get in the MVP conversation, and while Ortiz didn’t quite make the final-three, the fact that his absence was noteworth is, itself, noteworth.
Thank you, David. For this year and all those preceding it.
Moving on, to players just getting started, Mookie Betts’ win is, strangely enough, not quite so deserved, even though he’s an MVP candidate. I guess it depends on how much worth you put on plate appearances and games played. After all, J.D. Martinez is out there with a .307/.373/.535 line compared to Betts’ .318/.363/.534. The former is clearly better than the latter for anyone who acknowledges the failings of batting average as a stat independent of other information. The latter is clearly more valuable than the former when you consider that he played 38 more games and saw 213 more plate appearances. Frankly, I do think you give the nod to Betts over Martinez, but at least here there’s an argument, which isn’t even close to being the case with David Ortiz.
Finally, we have Bogaerts, and for him, too, it’s a close call. Bogaerts’ numbers are clearly slightly below those of Carlos Correa of the Astros at .294/.356/.446 to .274/.361/.451 respectively. Batting average, it must be noted, is lacking as a stat, but OBP does not completely erase its importance. A hit, after all, is certainly worth more than a walk, and that difference isn’t entirely made up for by SLG. Ultimately, going by wOBA, you end up with .348 for Bogaerts vs. .349 for Carlos Correa. Correa is obviously ahead, but it’s not clear that said lead is really significant.
Where you start to see the difference is when you adjust for environment. wRC+ does that, and it gives Correa a pretty big lead at 122 for Correa vs. 113 for Bogaerts. Bogaerts once more leads in plate appearances, but this time it’s only by 60, and it’s a little tough to suggest that 60 plate appearances make up the difference between the two. Xander Bogaerts is clearly one of the best shortstops in the American League, and if he’d maintained his early-season levels throughout the year, this wouldn’t be particularly close. But he didn’t, and as such, it’s a little hard to deny that Correa deserved this.
Still, three Silver Slugger awards in the bag for the 2016 Red Sox, and if maybe a 1B snuck in over a 1A, there’s nothing approaching Jeter Gold Glove status here. It was a big year for the Boston bats. It’s only appropriate they walk away with more awards to show for it than any other team.