The Washington Nationals entered the 2012 season having had the Silver Slugger award associated with them on only three occasions — and twice it was for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
On Thursday night, the Nationals were awarded a major league-high three Silver Slugger awards for the exceptional offensive seasons of shortstop Ian Desmond, first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher Stephen Strasburg. For all three players it was their first time earning the honors.
LaRoche, who is one of four major leaguers to win both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award this season, became just the seventh National League first baseman in history to win both awards in the same year. He joins Keith Hernandez, Will Clark, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols on that list after his superb season in D.C. Zimmerman is the only other National to pull off the feat, winning both awards in 2009.
LaRoche hit .271 this season and led all major league first basemen with 33 home runs and 69 extra-base hits. He had 35 doubles, drove in 100 RBI, walked 67 times and had 15 game-winning RBI — a career high. Before LaRoche, only Zimmerman and Adam Dunn had ever completed a 30-homer, 100-RBI for the Nationals.
At shortstop, Desmond enjoyed a significant breakout season. He was an All-Star and a finalist for a Gold Glove award but it was his offensive production that was a large part in him establishing himself as one of the best in the league this past year. Desmond hit .292 with 25 home runs, 33 doubles, 73 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He led all major league shortstops in homers, slugging percentage (.511) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.845).
The 25 home runs for Desmond also set a new record for Washington-based middle infielders (including the Senators).
And for Strasburg, the pitcher everyone expected to win awards in the major leagues, the first one he takes home is for his offense.
Strasburg worked in the offseason to significantly improve himself at the plate and it paid off to the tune of a .277 average, four doubles and his first career home run. Strasburg drove in seven runs for the Nationals and was walked three times.
Strasburg led all major league pitchers in doubles and on-base percentage, and was second in batting average, slugging percentage (.426), OPS (.759).
The trio joins only Zimmerman (2009, 2010) and Alfonso Soriano (2006) as Nationals to be honored with the award.