Ian Desmond & Anthony Rendon earn NL Silver Slugger honors

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by Amanda Comak

Silver Slugger LogoAn historic season for Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and a breakout one for infielder Anthony Rendon was validated with notable hardware on Thursday night.

Desmond and Rendon were honored as Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners, voted as the best-hitting shortstop and third baseman, respectively, in the National League.

“Our entire organization is exceptionally proud of Ian and Anthony,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo. “These awards confirm what we already knew: that they are two of the best offensive infielders in the game, and we consider them equally talented defensively. After the seasons each of these homegrown players put together, we’re honored that they did it with our uniform on their backs.”

This is the third such honor for Desmond, who notched his third consecutive 20-home run, 20-stolen base campaign this past season, and the first for Rendon, who established himself as one of the best young talents in the game during his sophomore season in the big leagues.

This is just the second time in the Nationals’ short history that they’ve had multiple players earn the National League’s top offensive award in the same season (also 2012).

“I’m extremely humbled and blessed to have won this award for the third straight year,” Desmond said. “It’s a testament to my teammates, who surround me in the lineup, the trainers – Lee Kuntz, Steve Gober and John Hsu – for keeping me on the field, and obviously the coaching staff for bringing out the best in me every day.

“As much of an honor as this is, I still feel like there are a lot of things I can improve on, and will improve on. I’m going to continue to work hard so I can be better next year.”

Leading all NL shortstops with 154 games played, Desmond hit .255 with a .313 on-base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage in 2014. He also led all NL shortstops in home runs (24) and RBI (91), while finishing second in hits (151), runs (73), and placing among the top 10 in doubles (T-4th, 26), triples (10th, 3), and  walks (7th, 46).

As this is the third consecutive season in which Desmond has been named a Silver Slugger Award winner at shortstop — making him the first Nationals player ever to take home three such awards – he now finds himself in elite company. Since the inception of the award in 1980, Desmond is the first National League shortstop to win back-to-back-to-back honors since Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin won five straight from 1988-1992.

Desmond also joins Edgar Renteria and Larkin as the only NL shortstops to win the award at least three times.

Adding 24 stolen bases to his 24 home runs this season, Desmond became just the fourth shortstop in Major League history to notch a 20/20 season at least three times in his career.

“It is that package,” manager Matt Williams said after Desmond hit the milestone. “It’s speed and power… He’s got the ability to do a lot of things. When he puts it together, it’s speed and power, and he’s shown that this year.”

Rendon, who established himself as one of the league’s best infielders in a breakout season, played both second and third base for the Nationals in 2014.

“While I don’t play this game for the individual accolades, I’m incredibly honored to receive this award and to be mentioned in the same breath as these great players — especially my teammate and friend, Ian Desmond,” Rendon said.

“I would like to thank all of the coaches, trainers and teammates who I’ve been with along the way. Without them, I wouldn’t be in a position to accept this.”

Rendon hit .287 with a .351 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. Leading the National League in runs scored with 111, Rendon clubbed 21 home runs as part of 66 extra-base hits, while walking 58 times and stealing 17 bases.

Exclusively as a third baseman, where he played 134 of his 153 games, Rendon hit .288 with a .353 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging percentage. Nineteen of his 21 home runs came while he was playing the hot corner, as did 53 of his 66 extra-base hits, 72 of his 83 RBI and 89 of his 111 runs scored.

“He’s a very, very impressive player,” Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels told The Washington Post late in the 2014 season. “I put him up with the [Troy] Tulowitzkis and the David Wrights when they first came up, those impact players you don’t normally see at such a young age. You know they’re only going to get better, and you’re like, ‘Great.’ He’s that type of guy — one of those superstars that’s going to be around forever.”

Rendon, who earned himself the nickname ‘Tony Two Bags’ because of his penchant for doubles, finished the year with 16 three-hit games – tied for the third-best mark in the NL with Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.

According to Fangraphs.com, Rendon’s 6.6 Wins Above Replacement for the 2014 season was tops among all NL infielders, and second only to Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (6.8).

NATIONALS TO WIN LOUISVILLE SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS (2005-2014)

2006  OF Alfonso Soriano
2009  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2010  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2012  SS Ian Desmond, 1B Adam LaRoche, P Stephen Strasburg
2013  SS Ian Desmond
2014  SS Ian Desmond, 3B Anthony Rendon

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