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 Avila claims first Silver Slugger Award

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PostSubject: Avila claims first Silver Slugger Award   Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:46 am

Avila claims first Silver Slugger Award
By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 11/02/11 7:00 PM ET

DETROIT -- Alex Avila missed out on a Rawlings Gold Glove Award. He will gladly take a Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger instead, and the Tigers will take a win over Mike Napoli.

With a big first season as a full-time starting catcher, Avila took the mantle as the American League's best offensive catcher from the oft-injured Joe Mauer. The All-Star beat out Napoli, Matt Wieters and others to become the only Tigers winner this season.

Avila is the first Tiger to win the Silver Slugger at catcher since 2004, Ivan Rodriguez's first season in Detroit. He's the first catcher other than Mauer to win the honor since 2007, when Jorge Posada won it.

It wasn't necessarily an easy decision for AL managers and coaches. Though Avila earned the All-Star start at catcher on his first-half roll, and never had the huge falloff that some might have expected, he also had to deal with catchers who heated up down the stretch. None got hotter than Napoli, who hit .383 with 18 home runs and 42 RBIs after the All-Star break, including .429 with eight homers in September. Though Napoli made just 57 starts behind the plate, he played there more than he did at any other position.


STERLING STICKS


There were nine first-time Louisville Slugger Silver Sluggers, while Boston's David Ortiz and Atlanta's Brian McCann each picked up their fifth such honor.
American League
Pos. _____Player_____ Team Silver Sluggers
1B Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1
2B Robinson Cano NYY 3
SS Asdrubral Cabrera CLE 1
3B Adrian Beltre TEX 3
OF Curtis Granderson NYY 1
OF Jose Bautista TOR 2
OF Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 1
C Alex Avila DET 1
DH David Ortiz BOS 5
National League
Pos. _____Player_____ Team Silver Sluggers
1B Prince Fielder MIL 2
2B Brandon Phillips CIN 1
SS Troy Tulowitzki COL 2
3B Aramis Ramirez CHC 1
OF Ryan Braun MIL 4
OF Matt Kemp LAD 2
OF Justin Upton ARI 1
C Brian McCann ATL 5
P Daniel Hudson ARI 1

Wieters, who beat out Avila for the Gold Glove, also made his case based on power. He homered 12 times in August and September and posted an .840 OPS over the season's second half.

In the end, though, nobody showed the consistency that Avila displayed, surprisingly so for a 24-year-old dealing with the wear and tear of more starts than any other AL catcher. He actually built on his first-half numbers by hitting for a higher average, near-identical slugging percentage and a higher OPS after the break.

Take Napoli out of the equation, and Avila led all full-time catchers in the American League in batting average, on-base and slugging percentages, and topped all Major League catchers in the latter two. He also led all AL catchers in base hits, RBIs and triples.

All through the second half, Avila was hitting through pain. A tweaked knee in July became patella tendinitis, which in August became an obstacle to fight through while playing every day with Victor Martinez unable to catch because of his own injured knee.

Tiger catchers have won 10 of the 32 Silver Sluggers since the award began in 1980. Half of those went to Lance Parrish, who added a sixth as an Angel in 1990. Rodriguez, Mickey Tettleton and Matt Nokes also won at least one Silver Slugger in a Detroit uniform.

Detroit had three other realistic candidates for Silver Sluggers, but all lost out in what looked like crowded fields and tough decisions for managers and coaches. While reigning Silver Slugger first baseman Miguel Cabrera won a batting title with a late-season tear, it came too late to sway voters to choose him over Boston's Adrian Gonzalez.

Jhonny Peralta led all AL shortstops in batting average and OPS, but his former teammate in Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera, had the advantage in hits, RBIs and runs scored. That earned Cabrera the vote, making him the first Indians player to win a Silver Slugger since Grady Sizemore in 2008 and the first Cleveland infielder since Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2000.

Though designated hitter isn't a defensive position, it's a Silver Slugger award, and it pitted Victor Martinez against former Red Sox teammate David Ortiz this year. Martinez had the higher batting average, finishing fourth in the league at .330, but Ortiz delivered more run production to win his fifth Silver Slugger at DH. Those two will likely have a similar competition going when AL media members vote for the outstanding DH award.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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