Tuesday, October 4, 2022


We return to the series we started during an off-day in the epic, just-completed journey with the 1962 Giants-Dodgers pennant race, where we look at the best second-half performances by hitters. We're still tracking Aaron Judge (still at 61 HRs with two games left in the 2022 season) to see where his stellar second-half performance this year will land in the all-time rankings; as he's struggled a bit since our first post in this series (posted on September 24th), his OPS+ value for the last half of this season has slipped to ninth best all-time (it was formerly 6th).

[Before we move on, let's look at the second-half hitter from 1962 who made it to the Top 300. If you were paying attention during the long series, you might be able to guess who it is. 

It's Frank Robinson, who ranks 127th all-time, with a second-half slash line of .344/.428/.663, which translates into a 204 OPS+ for the second half of 1962. (At some point, we'll compile how many second-half leaders wound up as league MVPs. Sadly, Frank's 1962 season won't be one of them.)]

The 1910-19 results that we post in this entry are almost certainly not going to be affected by whatever happens with Judge over the next two days, so we're safe in resuming our look at this intriguing exercise in offensive asymmtery.

As we've seen from our first post, the names of the high achievers in second-half offensive excellence are often quite familiar, but there are always some surprises along the way. Let's get to it...we begin with a look at the half-seasons from 1910-11 that cracked the Top 300 all-time:

1911 (and 1912) represented something of a thaw in the Deadball Era and its "inside baseball" approach, though it was not reflected in the shape of offense just yet (a strong harbinger of that will appear in the 1919 data. But we see some inkling of this in the ISOBAs of Sherry Magee and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte (in case you've forgotten or are coming across this term for the first time, ISOBA is simply the ratio of a player's isolated power, or SLG-BA, to his batting average). Schulte's very modest total of nine second-half homers in 1910 was, as the red ink depicts, the top mark in that stat up to that point in time. 

Unsurprisingly Ty Cobb is here both years, though he had a much more muted performance by his standards in 1911. Joe Jackson is the big news here, with his .434 second half in '11 vaulting him into the Top 40 (remember, the "top 40" really constitutes 43 hitter half-seasons).

In 1912-13 we have many of the usual suspects (Cobb, Jackson, Tris Speaker) but we also get some interesting names one might not expect to see here. In the case of Beals Becker, a mid-season trade from the Reds to the Phillies appears to have been the primary catalyst for his second-half performance; oddly, he did not take advantage of the Baker Bowl that season, as did his teammate Gavvy Cravath.

We'll eventually compile a list of all those who managed to hit .400 or higher in a half-season (first half as well as second). When we do, Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers, not known for his lusty bat, will be among them.

And Ty Cobb's second-half triples total in 1912 speaks to the often startling asymmetry that shows up in this data. From that total of 19 you'd possibly expect that Cobb had at least 30 triples that year; in fact, his season total was only 23. (Of course, we say "only" with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but you get the idea.)

We've seen Speaker, Cobb, Collins and Magee before, but Steve Evans is a new name--this is from his tenure in the short-lived Federal League, where he and Benny Kauff (we'll see him in the 1915 second-half leaders) were the top offensive stars. 

Speaker has the top second-half this year, though it wasn't enough to help the Red Sox overtake the Philadelphia A's, who were shockingly swept by the Boston Braves in that year's World Series. A shame the Sox could not find a way to overtake the A's, as it would have created the only Boston v. Boston World Series in baseball history...

We'll skip through the next four years of the soon-to-vanish Deadball Era, which is primarily dominated by the folks we've seen so many times already: Cobb, Speaker, Collins and Jackson. Ty does set a new record for the highest second-half batting average, however (.443 in 1918). 

1919 is a good bit more interesting, despite the paucity of incidences. This is Babe Ruth's first full season as an outfielder (with a bit of Ohtani-like pitching thrown in) and his second half is already shockingly modern. His ISOBA is over 1.000 (the first time in history, and it was over 1.000 for the full season as well). He sets records for second-half HRs (18) and walks (58). These offensive numbers have a strikingly different shape, and will over time become the norm for what we see in performance leaders (in both full and half-seasons). It stands out in the last year of the Deadball Era like a neon sign in the desert, and is good for 18th place overall in terms of second-half OPS+.

We'll be back soon with a look at 1920-29...