When the Silver Slugger Award finalists were announced, the New York Yankees found that five Yankees were on that list. Really? Is there any Yankee fan that deep down thinks that Gary Sanchez, Joey Gallo, and DJ LeMahieu should receive those awards? There are three other teams that have five finalists. There is obviously something wrong with the selection process.
Obviously, the other two New York Yankees on the list, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton deserve being on that list and being named a Silver Slugger. The other three not so much. Let’s take a look at the record.
Gary Sanchez had a batting average of .204, with 23 home runs and driving in only 54 in 383 at-bats. He had a wRC+ that is below league average and showed a scarcity of production for a catcher. The only reason for possible consideration is his home runs that are third among AL catchers, that are not known for hitting home runs. But when you average all the production his inclusion on the list is unexplainable.
DJ Lemahieu is a good baseball player there is no argument in that. But batting one hundred points lower than last season and only hitting 10 home runs while hitting into a multitude of double plays hardly qualifies for being a finalist. His wRC+ is just average and ties with Jed Lourie for sixth in the AL for 2nd baseman. Also, consider he played at second base less than half of the season.
Maybe the strangest selection is Joey Gallo. Gallo hit a paltry .160 for the New York Yankees. He played a great left field for the Yankees but that is not what he was nominated for, his finalist selection was for DH, in the same category as Giancarlo Stanton, Shohei Ohtani, Nelson Cruz, and Yordan Alverez. Really? Did anyone notice that he was a DH only 14 times for the Yankees this season? What were they thinking? At least Gleyber Torres wasn’t selected in the SS category.
If I was to relent on any of these three; it would be DJ Lemahieu, and not for what he was a finalist for, but for his overall good play and his good defense at all infield corners, when called upon. If he was to be a finalist in anything, it should be utility player, a category that does not exist.
This is not the first time this awkwardness has cropped up. In 2019 LeMahieu won the award at second base, when he only played there 75 times. 92 times; he played at first or third base. In 2015 Nelson Cruz won the award as an outfielder even though he only play 80 games in the outfield. In 2018 J.D. Martinez won the award twice, for both an outfielder and a designated hitter, despite playing just 57 games in the field that year. I think you get the picture.
There are solutions to be found. One is to create some new categories, like utility player or part-time DH. this would solve the problem of multi-positional players. It would lead to more authentic selections.
Many in the industry believe the selection system is flawed, and that they have a roadmap to fix it. Right now, the winners are voted upon by Major League managers and coaches, who are unable to vote for players on their own teams to select the finalists. That is fine, but allows too many human factors into the process. Many years ago the Gold Glove awards were experiencing the same flaws. They have mostly solved the problem by integrating stats into the formula. They now name the finalists with 25% of the conclusion based solely on stats. A decade ago Rawlings linked together with the Society for American Baseball Research to produce a process that considered the SDI (SABR Defensive index) for advanced metrics. This did not overtake the vote but made the difference in the selection process.
In the Silver Slugger situation Louisville Sluggers who sponsors the award can use the Gold Glove Rawlings roadmap the fix the annual awards and stop the embarrassment. All that is needed is for MLB and Louisville Sluggers to make the leap into the 21st century.