What the Hell is A Silver Slugger? Or Can’t Anyone Here Use Fangraphs?

The Silver Slugger is awarded to a single player per position, determined to be the most valuable offensively, in both the American and National Leagues as determined by Major League Baseball’s coaches and managers.

When it comes to thirdbase in the National League in 2013, the League’s managers and coaches picked extremely poorly in selecting Pedro Alvarez. In his age-26 season, Alvarez hit .233/.296/.473 in 152 games for the playoff-bound Pirates. He led the National League in two categories: homeruns (36) and strikeouts (186).

On a plate appearances basis, he was a mid-pack thirdbaseman offensively. By wOBA, Alvarez (.330) was seventh in the NL behind David Wright (.391), Aramis Ramirez (.366), Chris Johnson (.354), Ryan Zimmerman (.353), Juan Uribe (.334), and Pablo Sandoval (.331). wRC+ tells the identical story, slotting Alvarez seventh among Nation League hot-corner handlers.

Stepping back from advanced statistics, Alvarez was 17th in on-base percentage and second in slugging behind David Wright.

Wright played only 112 games and thus, did not reach 20 home runs or qualify for the NL batting title. He still was more valuable at the plate not just on a rate basis, but in terms of aggregate production than Alvarez. By Batting runs above average, Wright crushed Alvarez 29.7 to 9.9. That’s worth two wins on the field.

Alvarez was one of only two National League thirdbasemen to hit over 20 homeruns joined by only Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman had a strong overall season, hitting .275/.344/.465 in 147 games for the disappointing Nationals, who like Wright’s Mets missed the playoffs. Both Chris Johnson and Juan Uribe had nice seasons for the playoff-bound Braves and Dodgers, but neither has a real clear claim to being the best-hitting third baseman in the National League.

It’s not a stretch to say that hitting home runs was the only productive thing that Alvarez did in a better than average manner in 2013. Well, that and whiff, as he struck out in 30% of his plate appearances.

And somehow, National League managers decided that Alvarez’s ability to hit homeruns made him the best hitter in the league at the position. That’s wrong.

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