The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t need any outside validation to know what they did in 2013 got the attention of the sporting world.
Still, the recognition they’ve gotten in so-called “awards season” has to confirm their sense of accomplishment as they seek to continue their success in 2014.
Just days after pitcher Francisco Liriano received the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year award and Clint Hurdle was named a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez were two of 18 players to receive Silver Slugger awards Wednesday night.
The Silver Sluggers, voted on by MLB managers and coaches, are meant to denote the best hitters at each position. McCutchen was honored for the second straight year, while Alvarez won his first. Both were well deserving of the recognition.
The 27-year-old McCutchen posted the third-highest offensive WAR in MLB this year, contributing the equivalent of 7.5 extra wins to the Pirates with his hitting and baserunning skill. His oWAR was the highest in the NL, with St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (6.7) his closest pursuer.
McCutchen saw his slugging percentage take a slight dip from 2012, falling from .553 to .508, but his on-base percentage of .404 established a career high and his .911 OPS was the 10th-best in baseball.
Since McCutchen was named an NL MVP finalist for the second consecutive year, it’s not surprising he collected another Silver Slugger. For Alvarez, however, his 2013 was the product of steady improvement from a disastrous 2011 that had many questioning his ability to hit at the MLB level.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the 26-year-old Alvarez contributed 3.4 wins above replacement to the Pirates’ cause in 2013, with 3.1 of those coming at the plate. He smacked an NL-leading 36 home runs and slugged a career-best .473, racking up 60 extra-base hits along the way.
Only Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis hit more bombs than Alvarez this year, giving Pittsburgh an elite power threat it hasn’t had since the prime years of Brian Giles, or perhaps Jason Bay. At any rate, “El Toro” teamed with McCutchen to give the Bucs some much-needed punch.
The Pirates were one of four teams – the Orioles, Tigers and Red Sox were the others – to have two Silver Slugger winners. Click here to view the rest of this year’s great-hitting crop.