Wednesday, October 26, 2022

SIZZLING UP THE SECOND HALF/9: 1980-89, 1990-99

We combine the 80s and the 90s because the former decade is arguably the low ebb of hot second-half performances and would make for an extremely perfunctory post. It does start off with a bang, however...

George Brett's second half in 1980 catapulted him closer to a .400 season than anyone since that threshold had last been met by Ted Williams in 1941. It was also the first time that someone had hit over .400 during the second half since Williams did it in 1957.

Mike Schmidt had a nice, albeit shortened, run in the second half of 1981 once the players' strike had been settled. Another third baseman, Doug DeCinces, had a solid run in the latter half of the following season.

After clubbing an uncharacteristic 24 homers in the tater-tastic year of 1987, Wade Boggs reverted to his standard hitting profile in 1988 and forged an excellent second half, pushing his BA up to .380 and sustaining a base on balls place that pushed his season total to well over 100. More orthodox second-half peaks were turned in by Schmidt, Jose Canseco, Brook Jacoby and Jack Clark--only one of which had much synergy with any team success (Canseco's A's cruised to the World Series that year, only to be upended by the offensively challenged Los Angeles Dodgers).

The beginning of the Barry Bonds era dominates the 1990-93 time frame, along with Frank Thomas' early success. Note Ken Griffey Jr.'s rather uncharacteristic second half scald in 1991, before his power surge kicked in. And George Brett gets within hailing distance of his 1980 second-half eruption a decade later, catapulting him to his third (and last) batting title.

1995-96 ups the game a bit more, with Bonds previewing his OBP chops in '96. He was overshadowed by the power of Ken Caminiti, however, whose stellar (steroid-enhanced?) second half led the San Diego Padres into the playoff for the first time in a dozen years. 

Albert Belle was a precursor of what was coming in the immediate post-strike era, where homer production went through the roof.

Belle pushed his second half success further in 1998, crashing into the Top 40 with astonishing numbers (.387 BA, .816 SLG). Mark McGwire also produced two 30+ HR second halves en route to his smashing of the home run record. Larry Walker cleared .400 for his 1998 second half run, a feat that would be duplicated only two more times between then and now.