Friday, December 2, 2022


More first-half heroics herein, and the 1910-19 decade begins with a BOOM! in the person of Ty Cobb, who shows us what happens when a real hitter collides with an offensive upswing. We'd best get right to the numbers so that you all will experience a true "contact high":

We're thinking that Cobb's first half in 1911 has the most statistical records set ever (runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBI, stolen bases, BA, SLG and OPS). Of course, you'll remember from our earlier series that Harry Heilmann hit .457 in the second half (in 1927), but BA was the only record he set that year. Cobb is clearly "unto himself," though he's surrounded by some formidable names here in the 1910-11 time slice: Lajoie, Tris Speaker and "Ain't So" Joe Jackson.

Offensive levels cooled off in 1913, but that didn't stop Joe Jackson--who pounded out a first half that, when adjusted for the run scoring differences, actually ranks a bit higher than Cobb's eye-popping 1911 numbers. Ty's second half in 1912 ranked 38th all-time, and he actually had a higher BA that year (.409) than he did in '13, but it's the same thing--the ball was still livelier in '12, which is why all of the top first-half hitters from that year rank lower despite some impressive-looking stats. 

(Note that Tris Speaker sets new first-half records for doubles and triples in consecutive years--and note that "Jack Meyers" is actually Giants' catcher Chief Meyers, whose "heritage nickname" is now out of fashion...whatever you decide to call him, he was en route to his best year at the dish in 1912.)

Welcome to the "Federal League" years (1914-15), where we find four first-half heroes (two from Benny Kauff, who'd fail to live up to his comparisons with Ty Cobb once he joined the Giants after the FL did its el foldo). Speaking of Ty, he had another hell-raising start in '15, transforming himself into an OBP machine and setting new first-half records in runs, stolen bases, walks (and, of course, on-base percentage).

Offense sank further in 1916-17, which explains why the relatively prosaic first halves  turned in by Cobb and Speaker rank so highly. We have our first Rogers Hornsby sighting, with numbers that look positively anemic compared to what will be associated with his name in the decade that follows.

Cobb's second halves were the fiery season slices in 1918-19, years in which he continued to win the batting title (something he did throughout the 1910s save for one year--can you name it without looking it up?). That made room for two different types of slugger to step up in '19: the Baker Bowl-fluky Gavvy Cravath (whose other "fluke," apparently, is a misspelled first name), and the soon-to-be Sultan of Swat himself, who'd set a new second-half HR record in this very same year. Speaking of flukes: Federal League part-timer Al Wickland followed up his hot start for the Boston Braves in '18 by hitting .185 in the second half and was shipped back to the minors in the following year, never to return.

Summing up: we have 4 first-half .400 BAs; 11 .450+ OBPs, seven .600+ SLGs; 14 instances of 20+ doubles, nine instances of 10+ triples. and just three instances of 10+ HRs. How things will change...