Monday, December 12, 2022


After the dropoff to just ten Top 300 first halves in the 80s, we bounce back to a more robust 21 in 1990-99, a grouping that features many controversial players.

Was anyone "roiding" in 1993? Can we take Jose Canseco at his word? (Insert flatulent noise here...) The only "inflated" number in this brace of seven Top 300 first halves belongs to John Olerud, who broke Earl Webb's record for most doubles in the first half. (To be fair to Webb, he hit his 36 doubles in just 73 games; Olerud would add only 17 more in balance of his fine '93 season and wind up with 54, far short of Webb's full season record.)

Andres Galarraga gave Olerud a run for the top first-half BA in '93, with a little bit of help from the thin air up in Denver. (Galarraga was hitting .413 at Mile High Stadium at the All-Star Break that year, and wound up hitting .402 at home for the season.)

This list now features two Hall of Famers--Rickey Henderson and Fred McGriff. It should feature a third, but "roid rage" simply will not die off. 

The Big Hurt (aka Frank Thomas) supplied his most devastating punishment in the first half of 1994, with a performance that ranks #12 all time. Riding shotgun for him are Jeff Bagwell and Albert Belle. Note also Paul O'Neill, whose brief second-half slump (as you may recall, the season came to an end on August 10th...) was less dramatic than Thomas's and left him with the AL batting title (.359).

We have our first Mark McGwire sighting in '95, while he's still with the A's, hitting in park that suppressed homers. Things will change a couple of years later, and he'd do some serious damage to the record book (and to his own career, too).

Our man Edgar Martinez looked as though he might be the guy to really give Earl Webb a run for his money in the doubles department, but he petered out in the second half and wound up with "only" 56. McGwire comes into his own as a truly fearsome slugger in '96; the following year, Larry Walker discovers a Rocky Mountain high...

Here in the fin de siecle we have McGwire on pace for 75 HRs at the 1998 All-Star Break; whatever folks may think of it all now, the second half of the year, with Sammy Sosa staying within striking distance of McGwire into September, was among the most dramatic sequence of events in baseball history. People can deride it in retrospect if they so choose, but it was beyond electric. (Possibly more incredible: the two did it all again in 1999--just a notch or two down from their HR pace...and neither man broke into the Top 300 during the first half of the season.)

Spooling up the numbers here, we have no .400+ BAs in any of the 1990-99 first halves (Walker and Olerud came closest), but we do have nine .350 BA+ performances. We have one .500+ OBP performance (Thomas in '94, with a couple of others--McGwire in '96, Walker in '97--extremely close), with ten .450+ first-half OBPs. We have six .700+ SLGs, with a total of 12 at .650+. 

In first-half homers, we have two 30+ (Thomas in '94, McGwire in '98), with 12 at 20+. (Those figures ratchet up starting in 1994: in 1990-93, only one of the seven Top 300 first-half performers hit 20+ HRs; from 1994-99, that shifts to eleven out of fourteen.)