Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Apropos of nothing (or, virtually nothing)...the subject of interleague play came up--given that it will become a good bit more ubiquitous in 2023. 

That could throw baseball's stats further out of whack in ways that probably won't be measured; so, given that we are at the 25-year marker for this phenomenon (you may dimly recall that it began in 1997...), we decided to look at some of the data tucked away at Forman et fils (you know, Baseball Reference...) while we were waiting for the turkey to emerge from the oven. (And then we were really sidetracked when the bird--as opposed, of course, to "the Bird"--finally emerged...leading to an unusually protracted "turkey coma.")

But we are at least semi-awake now: so, first things first: has interleague play evened out over 25 years? (Yes, we know, it's actually 26 years, but we're bypassing 2020 in our calculations due to the abbreviated COVID schedule.) The data at left may shock everyone, even those often-arrogant folks in the "Nor'east Corridor." Two teams are suspiciously better at interleague play than anyone else...

...and those two teams are the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The distance between those venerable rivals from everyone else is eye-opening; the Yanks trail the Sox by 6 1/2 games but are still 21 games ahead of the next best interleague performer--shockingly enough, the often-underperforming Angels. (We've noted the teams who have most egregiously deviated  from their overall performance levels by coloring them in blue--overachieving--and red--underachieving; we remind you here that the AL continues to hold an overall advantage in interleague play, though some of that is due to the oddly recurring vagaries of the interleague matchups, which have produced a higher percentage of good AL teams vs. bad NL teams over the years than random chance would suggest to be the case.)

The Red Sox are the major anomaly here, as a look at the scatter chart at right (25-year interleague play WPCT pinned with 25-year overall WPCT) will attest. The NL teams are shown in blue, the AL teams in yellow--with the exception of the Yanks (shown in navy blue), the Sox (shown in Red) and the Tigers (shown in green). 

A trend line on this chart would run pretty close to a straight diagonal from lower left to upper right--and that tells us that the Red Sox have consistently overachieved in interleague play (.596 WPCT compared to .548 overall for the year 1997-2022). The Tigers are the other outlier, albeit at a lower level due to their lower "highs" (fewer playoff appearances) and higher total of "lows" (a hefty handful of 100+-loss seasons). That invisible trend line would also reveal that the AL teams generally have overachieved in interleague play (most of them would be to the right of the trendline...and you can see the telltale separation between the blue and yellow dots).

All of that is supposed to even out, right? Not necessarily--at least not under the original 15-18 game slice that comprised the original implementation of interleague play. The persistence of interleague competition patterns that created matchups between good AL teams and bad NL teams helped to preserve the AL's success, as NL teams who performed strongly in the first 13 year of interleague play (1997-2009) had shocking downturns in the second 13 years (2010-2002). Check out the Marlins (at the bottom of the chart below):

Near the top of the chart you'll find that the Red Sox are the only team whose .550+ WPCT in interleague play during its first 13 years improved over the next 13 years (from .555 to an eye-opening .634). While three other teams made bigger overall performance jumps in interleague play in 2010-22 (Rays, Pirates, Dodgers), all of them had played under .500 in such games during 1997-2009. And in the years where they've made the playoffs, the Sox have done even better when playing NL teams, with an overall .649 WPCT in such games (157-85). In their post-Theo Epstein crop of playoff teams (five appearances from 2013-21), they've been otherworldly in interleague games (76-24, .760 WPCT)...

In the midst of that--and almost exactly in the middle of the chart--are the Yankees, who managed to produce an identical .583 WPCT in each 13-year segment. 

2023 will be particularly interesting in light of these numbers, since each MLB team will play 46 interleague games. Will someone actually go 37-9 in interleague play next year? (Or 9-37, for that matter?) The current Red Sox squad doesn't seem particularly equipped to follow up with this odd little legacy they've managed to create, one that's remained completely under the radar. Though we find them roughly equivalent to the Yankees in their lack of appeal, it would be curiously satisfying if they can actually manage to keep this anomaly afloat despite now have to playing the entire National League. Just how elastic is an anomaly, actually? Perhaps we'll find out...

(We'll look at more traditional, player-based interleague stats in a subsequent post.)

Sunday, November 20, 2022


IT's been an eventful month, mostly away from the little world of baseball, with health issues and the traditional "Noirvember" event (the ninth FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT festival) dominating a fractious landscape. 

No matter how tricky things might get--and that swoon in the pharmacy was just one part of a post-Halloween "hall of mirrors" progression that is a "gift" which keeps on giving--they simply aren't as vexing as what happens to the folks who populate those French noirs, starting with the eternally glowery Lino Ventura. (We did make it to the second weekend of our own festival, thanks to a belated return to "the friendly skies," reconfirming that the world kinda sorta still works the way it used to even though it's still all upside down...)

SO at is a summary of the full data set for the Top 300 second-half performances that we laid on you earlier.

This breaks out the distribution of the most prominent performance levels (BA, OBP, SLG, HR) for the top second-half performances, agglomerated by decade. You'll note that the "decade slice" for Top 300 performances is pretty steady quantity-wise (see the "TOTAL" column at far right) through the 1960s, whereupon it slows down markedly through the 1990s, then has a bump in the 2000s, only to slow down again in the 2010s.

To best understand the distribution patterns, of course, we're better off using "percentage of total" values for these data buckets in each decade, which we've done in the next presentation of this data:

We've highlight the maximums in each of the stat categories so that the patterns will be more apparent.

You could run a STDEV on each of the major categories, too, but we'll leave that to others. That might reveal something of interest, but we'll stick with the patterns that emerge in the raw percentage data as it shifts/morphs in the decades: note, for example, how the presence of .400+ BA values essentially craters after the 1920-20 decade, and how the .350-.399 category has a brief resurgence in the 2000-09 decade (it wasn't all Barry Bonds, folks...)--and take a look at how .700+ SLG returns to prominence in the twenty-first century, presaging/predicting (perhaps...) the "advent" of the "launch angle world" in which we are all so fortunate to live (the ongoing bitter taste of the Tango Love Pie™).

To better track (and hopefully understand) the trends in the above, we may find it useful to combine decades to see how each of these categories shift over longer time units. So our next table shows the data as summed up by clusters of two decades (1900-19, 1920-39, 1940-49, etc., on up to 2010-22--with one exception, as we'll note below). As Rocky the Squirrel so ingenuously asks: "Is it important?"--and if you can supply Bullwinkle's reply from memory then you already know the answer...

So, yes, actually we've tossed in two summaries at the same time, so you can look at them in tandem (kind of like Laurel and Hardy on a bicycle built for two, with the results you can readily predict). The two-decade approach gives us a better sense as to how things shift--aided by the fact that we've left the sixties (1960-69) "unto itself," as it shows the bottoming out of offense that continues to haunt the folks who would sell us various "bills of good" about the present state of the game.

The ability for hitters to get into the Top 40 category should ultimately smooth out over time (given a sufficient amount of it) but the 1960s--with its total dearth of hitters in the Top 40--will always be the low point due to the cratering of BA, OBP and SLG (but not HRs, as the data demonstrates. The greater offensive variety that evolved in the 1970-89 time frame allowed hitters to fashion more second-half performances in the Top 40 relative to their overall appearance (which was at its lowest ebb, with just 27 over those two decades) that the 1960s, which were shut out of the "top peak" performances entirely. 

That recovery is eroding again over time, though as the decline in the 1990-2009 and 2010- "times in top 40" percentages demonstrate.

(We can also see that OBP is a relatively neutral factor in all of this, as the high preponderance of .400-.499 results indicates. It might be worth breaking that range down further--.400-449 and .450-.499--just to see if it shows us anything, but our gut tells us that it won't be of much consequence.)

Finally, note the last "two-note" summary--the pre-expansion years (1900-59) as contrasted with the post-expansion era (1960 on). The pattern shifts are much more apparent here, and also tell us much of the reason why there are still so many more top second-half performances from the earlier time frame in the data set (they comprise 56% of the incidences despite having far fewer team-years and player-years available to be in the overall sample).

To summarize a few long-term trends: 42% of the top-300 members from 1960 on have hit 20+ HRs in their second half, as opposed to 33% in the 1900-59 time frame. Only 5% of the 1960- group have hit less than 10 HRs in the top-300 second halves, as opposed to 35% of the hitters in the 1950-59 group.

In terms of BA, 62% of 1900-59 hitters hit .350 or more in their top-300 second halves, as opposed to just 40% of 1960- hitters. (And that is only that high because of the brief resurgence in .350-.399 BAs in the 2000-09 time frame, as our decade-by-decade chart reveals.)

Similar trends are visible in the SLG data as well. 

We'll move on to the first half data as time permits over the upcoming off-season, compile the Top 300, and create an analogous summary for it as shown above for the second-half. We expect to see a highly similar pattern in that data, but there's always a chance for a surprise. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Let's move through the latest Hall of Fame "Vet Committee" absurdity as quickly as possible, as it is simply some residue from the "rotten media" phase of the baseball year that lingers for awhile after the wretched excesses of the postseason.

The new "Contemporary Players Committee" has been handed a heavily massaged and brutally redacted set of names to fidget and fulminate over for the next four weeks. The list includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, denizens of the rogue planet Contraversos, just jettisoned from the asynchronous orbit of the mainstream Hall of Fame voting. It also includes Curt Schilling, lone inhabitant of the asteroid Conflagration, the only player in baseball history to scuttle his chances for induction by being an utter sh*t.

And, of course, those are the best candidates.

Behind them you have: Rafael Palmeiro, still tainted by his mega "oops!" moment with steroids; Fred McGriff, an on-the-cusp first baseman who may emerge as the dark horse winner from this dubious exercise; Dale Murphy, sentimental favorite of the "sabermetric confederacy"; Don Mattingly, sentimental favorite of the "sabermetric confederacy" that resides north of the Mason-Dixon line; and Albert Belle, the ballot's Dick Allen surrogate. 

It couldn't be clearer that this is pure theater, total politics (or, as we termed it above: "poli-schticks"), a collision of irreconcilable cross-purposes. That low-grade sonic rumble you'll hear in the background for the next four weeks is not our friend Buzzy the Fly (on another secret assignment) but the inchoate, incoherent murmurations of the latest group of folk who've been shoved into a scenario mashing up the proceedings found in No Exit and Six Characters in Search of An Author (as adapted for the stage by Harold Baines).

If we were to put money on it, we'd plunk down a sawbuck on McGriff. As much as we'd like to see these folk just put Bonds, Clemens and Schilling in, it seems totally out of bounds at this point. Too much guts required to go for that particular "glory."

BUT we've talked about all that too much already. To cleanse ourselves from this impending travesty, we give you our first cut at what our mainstream Hall of Fame ballot would look like, blissfully free from any supporting arguments (!). Here are the players we'd put on that ballot:

Bobby Abreu, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

We'll return to this in December after the "committee" has concluded its "dance of death." 

Sunday, November 6, 2022


Baseball is now over and done with again as we wobble our way through 2022; and, despite gnawing concerns about the game/business that remain disturbingly visible, many of us will miss it intensely until it returns in February to quell what will likely be a winter of discontent.

We set it aside this year with a final result that restores some orthodoxy to our sense of relative team quality: the Houston Astros had lost two World Series (in 2019 and 2021) to opponents whose W-L were distinctly inferior to them.  It also rewards the honorable career of Dusty Baker, whose long-term excellence as a manager (after an accomplished career as a player) was finally capped by a World Championship at the advanced age of 73 (the oldest manager to pilot a World Series winner). 

There are actually two tales of "two World Series" that are pertinent here, and we'll lede with the one we weren't referring to when we devised the subject line for this post. In 2021, the Astros were in the same position they found themselves in this year: down 2 games to 1, with Game 4 in the opponents' park. Houston took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, but the Atlanta Braves scored twice off Cristian Javier (home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler) to pull out a 3-2 win (you remember those, don't you?). The Astros overcame a poor performance from Framber Valdez in Game 5 to take the series back to Houston, but they were shut out by a trio of Braves' pitchers (headed by Max Fried) in Game 6.

This year, Valdez and Javier won three games between them, with Game 4 producing only the second no-hitter in World Series history. And it's that Game 4 that sets up our lede, where we can see that the 2022 World Series was actually two World Series in one...

...and that can be demonstrated simply by looking at the Philadelphia Phillies' batting lines for Games 1-3 and Games 4-6. As the data shows you, Philly used its "long-ball" offense to fashion a 2-games-to-1 lead, stoking the fires of the game's overheated media presence by hitting five homers in Game 3. (The theory in these pages is that while some of the media folk decry certain details in the game's transmogrification when it suits them, they are really still in thrall of the "launch angle/TTO" Frankenstein monster version of baseball that has been brutalizing the game since late 2015. Thus the Phillies' power display, combined with their underdog status--and the Astros' still-tainted reputation--made them media darlings.)

But then the second 2022 World Series kicked in, where the Astros virtually shut down the Phillies in their home park for two games and continued it last night. In the "first" WS, the Phils rode HRs to 15 runs despite not hitting much otherwise; in the "second" WS, their power supply was limited to baseball's current TTO king, Kyle Schwarber, while the rest of the hitters resembled creatures from Val Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie. (Schwarber himself had a strange, zombie-like moment in his final at-bat, betraying his TTO bonafides by attempting a bunt with two strikes, managing to paradoxically strike out while making contact with the ball.)

The Phillies did manage to do better than their 1905 counterparts, the Philadelphia A's, who scored three runs over five games and were shut out four times by the New York Giants (including three shutouts by Christy Mathewson). But their OPS in the final three games of the '22 Series (a woeful .380) was pretty much on part with what the A's managed for the entirety of what was the second World Series in baseball history.

While the Astros hit over 200 HRs in '22, the results of the World Series proved that it was their pitching that brought them back into dominance (winning eleven more games in '22 than in the previous year). With the triumphant return of Justin Verlander to Cy Young form, along with the rise of Valdez and Javier, and bolstered by an uncommonly deep bullpen, the Astros overcame a spotty offense to push themselves out of the "flawed dynasty" category they were in danger of occupying along with the 50s Brooklyn Dodgers, the '70s Baltimore Orioles, and the '90s Atlanta Braves. 

Buttoning things up from our most recent posts, the "talismanic 3-2 win" connection we reported on continued in play, with the Astros' 3-2 win in Game 5 clicking into their World Championship, making them the 20th team to do so out of 21 such occurrences. (And yes, we did the research for the games prior to 1972...we'll present that later on during the off-season.)

And, as regards the "NANA" pattern we discussed previously, the Astros put the AL back into the lead by closing things out as they did. Of the eleven WS with the "NANA" pattern over the first four games, the AL has now won six to the NL's five. 

The Astros matched the victory pattern (NANAAA) achieved previously by two New York Yankees teams, the 1951 squad that beat the "miracle" New York Giants, and the 1923 edition that also beat the Giants (though that "subway series" was handled with alternating games at each home park instead of the now standard 2-3-2 format.)

Friday, November 4, 2022


We've always found the 3-2 game to be a highly satisfying "middle ground" for the outcome in baseball. That score suggests good pitching on both sides, but enough run scoring to give both sides the sense that their offense is still working (even if not on all cylinders). It also means that the game is likely on the line for most (if not all) of the time.

Five total runs a game as a seasonal average would be too anemic, of course, but when it comes to fall baseball--when post-season teams face each other down for "all the marbles"--it makes sense that run scoring would be somewhat constricted due to a concentration of better pitching. But there's also enough room for rallies (successful or not--often the latter), which leads to numerous situations with men on base, adding tension to many of the innings in such a game...because, as it progresses, the sense that runs are scarce becomes a palpable part of the spectator's experience.

And that's just what we had last night, in a game filled with tension, miraculous defensive plays, and many thwarted opportunities to score that kept the game in play right up to the final batter. The only criticism of such a game that's possible stems from a rooter's standpoint: if you were rooting for the Phillies, the outcome was the flaw. 

Thinking about 3-2 games jogged an ancient memory about the early 1970s, when these games seemed to cluster in the World Series. And so we went back into the archives to look at the last 50 years of 3-2 World Series games, and discovered a curious fact. (At this point, if we were operating Joe the P's blog, we'd cut you off and ask you to pay to read the rest of the article...but we won't do that to you!)

Here's our chart of the 3-2 World Series games since 1972 (we've left off last night's game for a reason we'll get to shortly):

This takes you back in time to a different America...all the way to the point where there was no DH (and no Fox News, either). The 70s had five World Series in which there were 3-2 games, including one, in 1974, with four in a single series. 1972 wasn't far behind, with three. (Ah, the good old days...)

As it turns out, there have been 20 World Series in the past fifty years where there have been 3-2 games. (We aren't including last night's game yet, because the outcome of the Series is still unknown: our pattern, as you'll see shortly, is related to the outcome of the World Series in which 3-2 games occur.)

In those twenty series, teams that won the World Series won their 3-2 games in 19 of them. The only World Series on this list where the winning team failed to win a 3-2 game occurred in 2018, when the Dodgers won an 18-inning 3-2 game but lost the Series 4-1. There have been three series (1974, 1991, and 2014) where both teams won 3-2 games, keeping the string pretty much intact.

In short, a baseball team that wins a 3-2 game in the World Series has better than an 80% chance of winning that World Series. 

Now, of course, if we went back further in time, it's likely that this strange "pattern" will unravel. But fifty years is a good long time, and it's an odd little undercurrent in a game that needs all the undercurrents it can get. 

Reading the "Notes" above will demonstrate that many of these 3-2 games came down to the last inning before they were decided, with rallies and turnaround wins regularly in the mix. Last night's game was a most worthy addition to this list, and it's only the third time that such a contest occurred in Game 5 of a World Series (at least since 1972), meaning it's one of those rare times where the 3-2 game outcome leads to a 3 games-to-2 series situation as the World Series now enters its "do-or-die" phase.

And there's always the chance that we'll get another 3-2 game before it's all over. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 3, 2022


We might have been close to a "hey, hey, goodbye" moment the other day, when we did a "big swoon" at the pharmacy (while picking up medications, of all things!) and the paramedics got called in to save the day as our blood pressure crashed toward the number of hits that Phillies got last night in Game Four of the World Series. 

All's well that ends well,  of course, and the culprit responsible for the latest episode in a life lived on the brink of the brink got identified by one of those giant machines that somehow populate the upper floors of hospitals without crashing through to the basement. 

All of which proves--again--that "better living through chemistry" remains a delicate balancing act.

Meanwhile, the World Series has now revealed itself to be part of the "hey, hey, goodbye" subset sequence-wise, as this slice from our spreadsheet will reveal. 

This is the third "NANA" World Series in the 21st century, and only the eleventh overall. It assures us of at least six games, and that the Astros will bring this World Series back to Houston for at least one more game.

As you can see when you read down the "5" column, the NANA pattern has continued about half the time, with the AL/NL team splitting the previous Game 5's when  NANA has been in force. Interestingly, however, only one of those NL teams (the 2020 Dodgers) actually went on to close out the World Series in Game 6. In the AL, the Yankees have done so twice, in 1923 and 1951 (both times against the Giants).

And only twice has the NANA pattern persisted all the way through the WS--first, in 1909 (Pirates winning the tit-for-tat with the Tigers) and again in 1997 (Marlins doing the same to the Indians--remember them?). 

Some of you may not be able to help but notice (even without our "help" of another pattern that we call the "Indian bread" (different Indians!!) pattern. You may be able to discern it in the entires above for 1935, 1945, and 2011. Pass the chutney, dammit!

And we would be remiss if we did not leave you with a link to the tune that started all this silliness, and the one that should clearly become the reigning theme song for the 2022 World Series. 

Steam on, everyone--and make sure your meds get matched up properly, lest you have a "goodbye moment"...

Wednesday, November 2, 2022


Some interesting new names that you might not expect, and one more .400+ sighting provide us with an intriguing finale to our "kings of the second half" feature. Let's get to it...

Five "newbies" in 2010-11, with some nice high batting averages to go along with some solid slugging. One exception: Jose Bautista, who cracked 30 HRs en route to his 54 HR season and cracked .700 SLG despite a sub-.300 BA. 

Three more new names, including the second half that helped boost Buster Posey into the 2012 NL MVP award. Miguel Cabrera showed us a great finishing kick as he stayed on track for his Triple Crown season. Mike Trout's 2013 second half was pretty much just a day at the office for him at this point, while Jayson Werth astonished more than a few with his stretch run in the same year.

More new names, starting with Joey Votto's .408 second half in 2016. (It was actually his second time on the list, making him one of the few to be on it two years in a row.) Chris Davis' monster second-half--in fact, his entire 2015 season--soon revealed itself as a flash-in-the pan echo of his even more "monsterous" 2013 season; Freddie Freeman got his HR bat in gear down the stretch in 2016, but never quite matched up to that level again, despite having a fine career. David Ortiz and Edwin Encarnacion were like mirror-images of each other at home plate during the second half of 2015...

And even more new names, including the amazing second half spike of Christian Yelich in 2018, who pushed all the way up to #32 all-time. A year earlier, J.D. Martinez hit even more HRs and came within shouting distance of Yelich's SLG--and he did it for two different teams. In 2019, Alex Bregman and Nelson Cruz--on opposite ends of their careers--each took it a couple of levels in the second half. 

Three more newbies, each with excellent performances that land them in the Top 100...but, of course, all eyes are on Aaron Judge's just-completed second half run that pushed him to 62 HRs (a new AL record) and landed him at #10 all-time for second-half performances. Bryce Harper (the "evil mirror-image" of Mike Trout--at least sometimes...) and Juan Soto aren't exactly chopped liver, however.

So, one more .400+ BA sighting, three more .500+ OBPs, and nine more 700+ SLG second-halves. We'll sum up all of the relevant highlights for all the offensive categories across the entire spectrum of our Top 300 in our twelfth and final post, coming up shortly. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 1, 2022


For some, his achievements are otherworldly; for others, they are seen as abominations. The latter group certainly seems like part of the ongoing backlash in America that demands a level of "purity" and "authenticity" that makes the Puritans look like decadent slackers, but they will likely haunt the legacy of Barry Bonds for some time to come.

For us, Bonds' achievements in 2001-04 are so beyond belief that they transcend suspicion.  The season that offends is that first one, where he hits 73 homers, an outlier in his career that continues to produce as much (or more) anger than awe. What's astonishing is that the 2002 season is even better, with the two following years creating an overall performance level that is nothing if not surreal. However he did it, he will likely remain baseball's eternal specter of outsized greatness for decades to come.

And here is the calm before the storm. Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa slug over .700; Todd Helton and Jason Giambi rehearse for their peak levels of performance, which follow in the following year; Jeff Bagwell takes an honorable run at his 1994 peak.

Bonds lands in the #5 slot for his 2001 second half, which features a .908 SLG and a revealing ratio: nearly 45% of his hits are homers. Sosa has another fine second half chasing him, as he did with McGwire during the 90s; he actually manages to out-homer Bonds in the second half (no meat feat).

Bonds' 2004 (#4 all-time) is, as previously advertised, just as stellar as the HR-happy second-half  of 2001. (The OPS+ scores are identical.) Barry actually hits .400+ in the second half,  a feat last seen only four years earlier but only accomplished a dozen or so times in baseball history. That .608 OBP is simply beyond surreal.

It's also Jim Thome's half-season peak, stellar enough for a #26 finish all-time. 

Some new names: Chipper Jones, Brian Giles, Carlos Delgado.

Bonds misses a large dollop of playing time in the second half of 2003; he just barely qualifies in terms of plate appearances. But his rate stats are virtual carbon copies of his performance in 2002. 

Javy Lopez has what is arguably the best second half by a catcher with his somewhat truncated '03.

2004 is the year when folks really wouldn't pitch to Bonds--that total of 101 walks is the record for the second half, but is dwarfed by the 131 times he walked in the first half. His teammate on the Giants, J.T. Snow, also had a fine second half, but San Francisco could not rally from a six-game September deficit in the standings and finished second in the NL West.

The Cardinals cruised to a pennant behind Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols (his first time on the second-half list) only to be swept in the World Series by the not-to-be denied Boston Red Sox.

Injuries and advanced age finally brought Bonds' run to an end in 2005. Ryan Howard temporarily replaced him as the offensive behemoth with a spectacular second half in 2006 (placing him in the Top 40 all-time). Manny Ramirez would move to the Dodgers in late July 2008 and have a memorable run. David Ortiz had powerfully productive second halves in 2006 and 2007 as the Red Sox continued to stay at the top of the heap during the "TEE" (Theo Epstein Era). In his second season as a "big bat for hire," Mark Teixeira had a big second half for the Angels in 2008, leading them to a division title. Derrek Lee, who came into his own when he moved to the Cubs in 2004, had a solid second half in his "last hurrah" season in 2009.

The 2000-09 decade is filled with extreme second-half performances: a .400+ BA, five .500+ OBP, and 15 half-seasons where the hitter exceeds a .700 SLG (including four above .800--all Bonds). Offensive levels remained high throughout, with seemingly no end in sight. The next decade would prove to be completely different...