Tuesday, October 11, 2022


OK, back to the second half...and back to 1920, the birth of the live ball era. Our charts here capture the hitters whose OPS+ placed them in the top 300 second-half performances in baseball from 1901 to 2022. Let's get started...

Babe Ruth's second half in 1920 ranks #2 all time in terms of second-half OPS+, a staggering 297. Note in the stat line that the Babe had more runs scored than hits, in large part because pitchers had become all too aware of his menacing presence at home plate and walked him 83 times in 66 games, setting a new record for second-half performance. (All record-setting totals that we encounter on our journey through the second half are shown in red.)

An interesting contrast in this season is available to us in the stats of George Sisler, en route to the first of two .400+ seasons. It's a superb second half, but dwarfed by Ruth's OBP and SLG: nevertheless, it registers in the top 40 (four hitters tied with a 225 OPS+).

Joe Jackson and Ross Youngs, two players who had their careers cut short, round out the hitters in the Top 300, with Ross joining the group with a .400+ half-season. (We'll quantify that for you a bit later.)

In '21 Ruth sets records in second-half runs scored, homers and RBI, with a 262 OPS+ good for ninth place all-time. His '22 is solid but undistinguished by comparison, coming in at #232.

We have our first Rogers Hornsby sighting on the second-half list in 1922, with the first of several .400+ half-seasons. Tris Speaker makes his second-to-last appearance on this list, with his first .400+ second half: note his strikout totals. And converted pitcher Reb Russell, who wasn't even with the Pirates until the second half of the year, has an epic partial year with a mind-bending RBI/G rate.

The Babe just keeps rollin' along in 1923 and 1924, even managing a .400+ half-season (in the year that he hit .393 overall). He ranks #6 and #31 all-time with these two half-seasons, but would hit the wall in '25 thanks to his infamous "tummy ache."

Hornsby hits an incredible .451 (setting, temporarily at least, a new record for highest second-half BA) in 1924 en route to his .424 season. Speaker makes his last appearance on the list (a very respecable #72 overall) with another .400+ second half, with Harry Heilmann (.413) joining him. Rounding out the list for '23-'24 is the great-but-mostly-forgotten slugger for the St. Louis Browns, Ken Williams.

Hornsby is the only hitter crashing the top 300 in 1925, and it's an unremarkable achievement by his standards. Ruth rebounds in '26 with a solid closing kick, good enough for #20 all-time. 

It's '27 that has the most fascinating contrast, as two totally opposite styles of hitting collide in the second halves produced by the Babe and Harry Heilmann (who sets the all-time record for highest BA in a secon half, with a mind-blowing .457). Harry hits a hundred points higher as measured in BA, but Ruth outpoints him in SLG (setting a record for most homers in a second half, en route to that ever-mystical sixty...) and winds up edging him out all-time in terms of OPS+, 247 to 245.

1928 and 1929 produce a bumper crop of excellent second-half performances, but none of them come close to cracking the Top 40. Heinie Manush and Lefty O'Doul join Hornsby in the .400+ BA group, and we must turn ourselves in for not documenting on the chart that O'Doul set a record in '29 for the most second-half doubles (at least until Earl Webb jumps into the picture in 1931). 

All in all, 12 .400+ BA performances and 13 .700+ SLG performances. Chick Hafey's .412 OBP is the lowest of anyone on the 1920-29 list; surprisingly, the next lowest belongs to Babe Ruth (.413 in 1922). (How about them apples?)

On to the 1930s...next!