Tuesday, October 25, 2022


The seventies--a decade for which we could use a do-over in hopes of forestalling the latest wave of ignorant backlash in America--had its moments while it lasted. Baseball was in a milder format, with a certain level of suppression in place to ensure that no sluggers came within shouting distance of Babe Ruth's home run record. Offensive levels bottomed out, recovered, relapsed, and finally moved past anemia (but headlong into eighties anomie...) when expansion occurred in '77. 

OK, we'll stop with the conflation and get on with the figures...

1970 saw an uptick in offense, particularly in the NL, and Willie McCovey and Carl Yastrzemski were there to take advantage. Their heroics did little to help their teams make it into what from now on would be called "the post-season"...

We'll have to go back and look at players' ages to get a better handle on that distribution among high-end second-half performance, but one suspects that, after the numbers we'll see during the 2000-09 decade from Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron's age-37 performance, ranked #24 all-time with a 231 OPS+, will be among the most impressive. 

Joe Torre, slimmed down and moved from catcher to third base, had a throwback season (high BA, middling power) in his MVP season.

Run-scoring levels dipped again in '72 (as the nation overwhelmingly picked the "wrong man"--no, not Henry Fonda--for president). It was most prevalent in the AL, where three stalwarts--Dick Allen, John Mayberry, and Bobby Murcer--cracked the Top 300 at varying levels despite relatively low BAs. It was that type of year. 

Over in the NL, Billy Williams put together his finest season for the Cubs, leading the league in BA, SLG, OPS and OPS+ and probably cementing his Hall of Fame chances. (He was actually hotter in the first half, which we'll see eventually when we cover that data for you a bit later on.)

These are the fallow years, with (usually) just one hitter cracking into the Top 300. Davey Johnson went to Atlanta in '73 and refined his HR stroke; Jeff Burroughs refined his batting eye and nailed down his line drive hitting, at least for awhile in '74; John Mayberry returned one last time to the form that made many believe he'd be the key superstar of the 70s (sadly, he was not); Joe Morgan brought stolen bases back into the equation (even though they don't factor into OPS/OPS+) and locked down his second MVP award with a nice run in '76.

In '77, one flake and one Hall of Famer pushed against the singularity and had top-notch second halves in the same season (imagine!). Oscar Gamble had the better performance according to OPS+, but George Brett's counting stats were more impressive, and we know which one of these guys we're likely to see on this list again...

The late 70s saw the advent of two slashing lefty batters: Dave Parker and Fred Lynn. They didn't maintain the pace they set in the second half of the decade, but they fashioned long and effective careers. 

Our man Sixto Lezcano proved to be a more wayward type, and seemed to attract brushback pitches that knocked him from the lineup and sapped his full potential as a hitter, but in '79 he was a glorious offensive force, leaving a strong footnote about what he could do at his best. '79 was a bittersweet summer in many ways, but the heartbreak and foreboding it contained was offset by Lezcano's superb second half (particularly in July and August, when it looked like he might own the world).