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...