Ryan Braun takes home Silver Slugger

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers teammates Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder went together like beer and bratwurst for the past five seasons, and they were linked again Wednesday, perhaps for one last time. Both players were named Silver Sluggers in the National League.

The award, presented annually by the Louisville Slugger bat company, goes to the top hitters in each league at each position. Both Braun and Fielder have won before. Braun has been a Silver Slugger for four straight seasons, and Fielder, a free agent as of this week, also won in 2007.

"The biggest challenge as a baseball player is consistency and longevity," Braun said Wednesday night. "The only way to win this award four years in a row is to be pretty consistent. That's the biggest thing that we all strive for, so it's definitely pretty special."

It's the second straight season and the fourth time since the Silver Slugger Award debuted in 1980 that the Brewers have multiple winners. First baseman Cecil Cooper, shortstop Robin Yount and outfielder Ben Oglivie won in the award's inaugural season; Cooper and Yount won again in '82; and Braun and pitcher Yovani Gallardo won in 2010.

Now it's Braun and Fielder, two homegrown sluggers who should also rank high in the NL MVP balloting when results are announced on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Braun led the NL with a .994 OPS and .597 slugging percentage, and finished second with a .332 batting average, 336 total bases and 109 runs scored. He ranked fourth with 111 RBIs and tied for sixth with 33 home runs. He's the first NL outfielder to win the award four years running since Barry Bonds took five in a row from 2000-04, five of Bonds' 12 career Silver Slugger Awards.

The other Silver Slugger outfielders were Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Justin Upton of the D-backs. Both are considered leading contenders with Braun for the NL MVP honor. Kemp has already won the Hank Aaron Award as the NL's most outstanding offensive player.

To win his second career Silver Slugger Award, Fielder had to unseat the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, who had won at first base in each of the past three seasons. Fielder had the edge over Pujols in home runs (38 to 37), RBIs (120 to 99), OPS (.981 to .906) and total bases (322 to 313).
Fielder finished second in the NL in homers, RBIs, walks (107) and on-base percentage (.415). He also was the only player in the Majors to start all 162 games.

"If you look at his numbers, you can make the argument that he could have won a Silver Slugger every year if not for the fact that [NL first base] is probably the most stacked position to win it in either league," Braun said. "His competition is pretty crazy when you look at Albert, [Joey] Votto. They got that vote right."

Now the big question is which uniform Fielder will wear to accept the award next season. He is the Brewers' biggest free agent, and while club officials have vowed to join the sweepstakes, Fielder figures to draw serious interest around the game.

The other NL Silver Sluggers were Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Braves catcher Brian McCann and D-backs pitcher Daniel Hudson.

In the American League, the winners were Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Tigers catcher Alex Avila and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.

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