Ryan Braun told us that it would go this way. He said so in early August, when he was coming off a July that saw him hit an even .200 and left his batting average entering the Brewers’ July 31 game at .273, 35 points off his career average entering 2010. He owned a .325 on-base percentage that day, 38 points off his career mark, and a .459 slugging percentage, 92 points off.
“If I finish strong,” he said a few days later, “there’s no reason I can’t have just as good a season I had last year. There’s no reason I can’t have my best season if I finish great this year.”
In the end, he didn’t have his best season, but he did have another good one. Braun batted .364 over his final 55 games with nine home runs and 35 RBIs and finished the year batting .304 with 25 home runs and 104 batted in. He boosted his on-base percentage up to .365, and his slugging percentage to .501.
The reward came Wednesday, when Braun was honored with this third consecutive Silver Slugger Award as one of the National League top hitting outfielders. Braun is only the second player in franchise history to win the award three years in a row — sweet-swinging first baseman Cecil Cooper won it from 1980-82. Robin Yount also took home the award three times, but not in consecutive seasons.
For the first time in nearly three decades, Braun was not the Brewers’ only winner. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo won his first career Silver Slugger Award as the NL’s top hitting pitcher. He batted .254 and led pitchers with four home runs and 10 RBIs. No other pitcher belted more than one homer in 2010.
“It always feels good, especially as a pitcher, in situations where you can help yourself out,” Gallardo told reporters in San Diego on May 1, after he limited the Padres to one run in eight innings and belted a difference-making homer in a 2-1 Brewers win.
This season marks the first time that the Brewers had multiple Silver Sluggers since 1982, when Cooper and Yount were honored.
Besides Braun, the other Silver Slugger-winning NL outfielders were Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. Other 2010 Silver Sluggers were Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Braves catcher Brian McCann.
“Whenever you’re recognized for doing something at the end of the year, it’s rewarding,” Braun said this week. “It’s nice to know that the hard work you put in has been noticed, and it’s paid off.”
He called the Silver Slugger Award, “a tremendous honor.”