Major League Baseball doesn’t give out many team-wide awards.
There’s the Commissioner’s Trophy, of course, presented each year to the World Series champion. There are also the league pennants and the division titles, but that’s pretty much it. Teams don’t get subjective awards; if a team wants an honor, they have to win ballgames.
This year, however, that’s about to change. The Silver Slugger Awards, presented annually to the best offensive performers at each position in each league, will now also recognize the best offensive team in each league.
Unlike the individual Silver Sluggers, which are voted on by managers and coaches, these new awards will be determined by a combination of fan voting and “analytics,” according to the announcement from Louisville Slugger.
There’s a reason team awards aren’t as commonplace as individual honors. At the end of the day, the only stats that matter for teams are wins and losses. Still, these new Silver Sluggers are intriguing, if for no other reason than because they’re the first of their kind.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which clubs could take home the inaugural team-wide Silver Sluggers.
Let’s start with the National League, where the conversation is already open and shut. The Atlanta Braves lead the Senior Circuit in scoring by a margin of 40 runs over the second-place L.A. Dodgers. They lead in hits, home runs, RBI, and all three triple-slash categories.
According to wRC+, the Braves have been 24% better than the average offense. No other team – in either league – comes close.
Atlanta has ten players with at least 10 home runs, seven players with at least 20, five players with at least 30, two players with at least 40, and one with an MLB-leading 53 blasts.
Every hitter in the Braves’ starting lineup has a wRC+ above 100; from top to bottom, there isn’t a single liability.
Matt Olson is pacing the league in home runs and RBI, while Ronald Acuña Jr. leads in stolen bases, runs scored, and OPS. They have been two of the best offensive performers in baseball.
Meanwhile, Austin Riley leads NL third basemen in hits, homers, and slugging percentage. Sean Murphy leads all catchers (min. 400 PA) with a 133 wRC+. Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia rank among the top five at their respective positions in OPS.
Simply put, the Braves are an offensive powerhouse. Some have even argued they’re the greatest offensive team in MLB history.
They have the Silver Slugger in the bag.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Braves have this one on lock. Still, I feel compelled to acknowledge the Dodgers, too. They’re arguably the second-best offensive team in the game, and they deserve a shutout in any piece about the top-hitting ballclubs.
Los Angeles ranks second in MLB in total runs scored and runs per game. They also rank second in OBP. Outside of the Braves, nobody makes fewer outs than the Dodgers.
Eight Dodgers players have hit 15 or more home runs, and those same eight all boast a wRC+ above league average. Leading the way are Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, the only two hitters giving Acuña and Olson competition at the top of the NL leaderboards.
L.A. has also gotten strong contributions from a revitalized J.D. Martinez and Jason Heyward, the ever-reliable Max Muncy and Will Smith, and rookie standout James Outman.
They aren’t the Braves, but the Dodgers boast as powerful a lineup as anyone else.
The competition is far more engaging on the Junior Circuit. The Rays looked like the top offensive club right out of the gate this season, but it wasn’t long before the Rangers usurped the title. More recently, the Astros bats have been the class of the American League.
As the season draws to a close, these three clubs have similar numbers across the board. Any one of them could take home the first-ever AL team Silver Slugger.
The Rangers hold a sizeable lead in runs scored, and to some, that might be the only category that matters. After all, what else does an offense have to do but score runs?
On top of that, Texas boasts a seven-point lead in on-base percentage and a 22-point lead in OPS. There is no denying they’ve been one of the best offensive teams in the league. But the very best? Not if the Rays have something to say about it…
Tampa Bay Rays
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The Rays trail the Rangers in almost every offensive category but one: wRC+. By this metric, the two clubs are neck and neck.
Yet unlike all the other stats I’ve mentioned, wRC+ is park-adjusted, which means it takes into account the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field, where the Rays play their home games. Simply put, runs don’t come as frequently at the Trop as they do at Globe Life Field. Therefore, it’s not really fair to compare Tampa Bay and Texas without looking at park-adjusted metrics.
Here’s another way to think about it. The Rays have outscored the Rangers in away games. Indeed, they hold the lead in home runs, batting average, and slugging percentage, while their OPS is 30 points higher on the road.
What more proof do you need that their numbers have been deflated at Tropicana Field?
If I had to guess, I’d say the Rangers are still the favorites. More often than not, traditional stats are still king, especially for a fan-voted award. However, the Rays deserve a whole lot of credit for what they have done in such a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
The Astros are currently trailing the Rangers and Rays in most categories, including runs scored, OPS, and wRC+. However, they’re close enough that they could make things interesting over the final six games of the season.
Houston has been red-hot as of late, with an .883 OPS and a 143 wRC+ over the past 30 days. No other AL club has an OPS above .800 or a wRC+ above 115 in that time. With a few more big games – and a slow finish from both Texas and Tampa – the ‘Stros could put a cherry on top of their Silver Slugger case.
The Astros aren’t the favorites right now, but they’re certainly still in the conversation.