Why was Jayson Werth snubbed for the Silver Slugger

Jayson Werth was snubbed for the Silver Slugger award in 2013.  This is particularly egregious because based on wRC+, a stat which uses wOBA and adjusts to the park factors (more on that later) Jayson Werth was the 4th best  hitter in the MLB last year after Cabrera, Trout and Davis.  According to wOBA , probably the best overall stat to gauge offense production, Werth was the 2nd best hitter in the NL by .001 to Paul Goldschmidt, but once you factor in the games Goldschmidt played in Coors field Werth comes out a little better.

For the record the three outfield winners should have been Werth, McCutchen and Choo, but I have no problem with Cuddyer (the batting champion) winning because he was more than just a slap hitter, but Coors field pads his stat line. How did Jay Bruce get the award?  He wasn’t even the best outfield hitter on his own team?  I wouldn’t even have Bruce in the top 15, but the voters for the Silver Slugger did.

The reason why Bruce was on the list and Werth was snubbed is because of who votes on the award:

As determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Jay Bruce led all NL outfielders in homers and RBI.  I can almost hear some of the more traditional managers and coaches looking at those easy to understand stat lines and filling out the ballot.  This is sad, because the Silver Slugger rules try to drive the voter to consider a more holistic approach to voting.  Here are the actual rules:

The Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards are the top offensive honor in Major League Baseball ®. Coaches and managers of Major League teams vote for the players they feel are the best offensive producers at each position in the field in both the American and National Leagues. They base their selections on a combination of offensive statistics including batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value. Managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

The rules actually go out of their way to not include the stat lines like HR and RBI when considering the winners.  So lets take the award at its word and compare the winner Jay Bruce vs Jayson Werth.

Jayson Werth 0.318 0.398 0.532
Jay Bruce 0.262 0.329 0.478

Please notice that using the Silver Slugger’s own selection criteria Bruce isn’t even in the same zip code as Werth.  There is no way anyone could look at those two lines and come away thinking that Bruce was the better hitter.  Which means that Bruce won the award on the final catch all “general impression of a player’s overall offensive value”.  The case for Bruce is that he played in virtually every game and racked up an impressive amount of “counting stats”.  Werth missed about a month of the season, thus Bruce had about 150 additional plate appearances and had slightly more hits and home runs and did have more doubles and RBI.

One thing that Bruce had going in his favor is his home run total, even though Werth had a better SLG average.  I am pretty sure that if Werth had more home runs than Bruce he would have won.  The thing about that, is Werth was playing against a stacked deck.  Bruce plays in Great American Ball Park which is one of the easiest home run hitting parks in baseball.  Every year the park factors are observed and calcualted to determine the impact of the actual stadium the players played in.  This year Great American (1.338) was the 2nd easiest HR hitters park only behind Citizens Bank.  Nats Park, usually a pretty fair park was particularly stingy coming in 26th at .804.  If you adjust the two players home runs for only home game to a neutral park, you see that Werth and Bruce would have been very similar.

Park Factors HR
Werth 0.804 27
Bruce 1.338 25

It is not to say that Bruce didn’t hit the home runs, it is just to point out that when comparing players stat lines it helps to regress to a neutral playing field,  that is what wRC+ tries to do.  wRC+ says that Werth was 160 (or 60% better than the average player) and Bruce was a 117.  For comparison sake, Desmond had a wRC+ of 115.  I am guessing the coaches and the managers voting didn’t regress to a neutral field before voting for Bruce.

In the end, these awards do not really matter all that much, but I have chip on my shoulder about Werth.  The Nationals were so maligned for signing him to the contract they did.  Many said his best days were behind him and that the Nats were such a bad team the signing didn’t make sense.  Even local media still remain obsessed with his contract, like the Nationals did something wrong by paying one of the best hitters and clubhouse guys in the league to come to Washington rather than go to Detroit or Boston (both were ready to pay him too). Werth, didn’t help the narrative by having his worst season in 2011, but with his injury shortened 2012 and his fantastic 2013 he and Nats now seem vindicated that he is the player they said he was.  A Silver Slugger would be an easy award to point to as evidence of his value.  Now, guys like me have to write 1000 word blog posts and do regression analysis to point out how good he is.

Check out this great piece by from SI it also backs up my point with different stats but the same conclusion.


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