Sunday, March 26, 2023


Today is my late Dad's birthday, and he was just old enough to have had the opportunity to see Babe Ruth play in person. He saw him several times: the first was on a barnstorming tour through the Midwest just a couple weeks after the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. Ruth took the mound that day for an inning or two, and my Dad remembers him as still being rather spry. He did not hit a homer during the exhibition game, but he put on a good show in batting practice.

Stats were not kept at the obsessive level of detail that is now the case, so it's likely that neither my Dad nor Babe Ruth knew just how thoroughly he was going to dominate a future compilation of hitters' "half-season stats. As we've been demonstrating here, it's relatively easy to assemble such data now, and (as you might expect), the Bambino has the most "half-seasons" in the Top 300 on either side (1st half/2nd half). Take a look:

In case you don't want to count these up by hand, there are 25 "half-season entries" in the Top 600 (or, rather, Top 300 for each half) that have Ruth's name attached to them. Notice that his season-long dominance in so many seasons results in eleven years showing up in both 1st half and 2nd half leaders lists. (Those years are: 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1932, and 1933.)

The Babe was (of course) the first hitter to slug 30+ HRs in a half-season (that happened in the first half of 1921). He would do that again in the second half of 1927, the first half of 1928, and the first half of 1930.

Ruth has seven seasons in the Top 10 of "half-season" hitting achievement (as measured by OPS+). His #1 and #2 half-seasons occurred in the same year (1920), when what he was doing was still radically innovative. He had another six seasons in the 11-through-20 slots, the first of these coming in his final half-season with the Boston Red Sox in 1919; the final one occurred in the second half of 1932.

The Babe finally started to show his age in 1933--he was 38 years old, after all, and he just wasn't able to lay off the type of food that had laid him low back in 1925 (the infamous "year of the tummy ache"). 1933 was the year in which my Dad saw Ruth in an official major league game: the date was June 30th, the place was Cleveland.

He remembered it vividly even seventy years later, and when you look at the box score at Forman et fils (OK...Baseball Reference) you'll see why. The Yankees were defending World Series champions, but they were in a dog fight at that point of the '33 season with the Washington Senators, who would ultimately march to the AL pennant that year thanks in large part to a 13-game winning streak in August. It didn't help the Yankees that their second-line pitching was less than mediocre that year--which contributed to their 1-9 record in extra-inning games. 

Ruth had three hits (all singles) in that game, driving in three runs, but my Dad recalls that he had much less mobility at this point that had been the case four years earlier. Old and out of shape, Ruth in the second half of 1933 saw his batting average slip below .300 for the first time ever. (He'd hit below .300 for the entire '34 campaign, his last full year in MLB.) Thanks to his batting eye and still relatively prodigious slugging, he still wound up in the outer reaches of the Top 300 for both halves...but, save for that legendary three-homer game against the Pirates in '35, it was the last hurrah.

We'll be anthologizing more of our "wraparound seasons" (the full year's worth of data soldered together from the second half of year A and the first half of year B) in an upcoming post, so of course we're going to show you the ones that belong to the Babe. As with everything Ruthian, they are fascinating:

What tends to happen here is that many of Ruth's iconic early seasons with the Yankees (1920 and 1921 in particular) get a bit flattened out when they are given the "wraparound" treatment. He gets a tad closer to a .400 BA season in the 1923-24 wraparound (he hit .393 in '23), and he's very consistent in the 1926-27 wraparound, with a little more SLG in the '27 portion.

What's really noteworthy, though, is the uptick in power that Ruth demonstrates in his next two wraparound seasons that both crack the Top 600. Note that after he hits 31 HRs in the second half of '27 to reach that still-magic number of 60, he then hits 32 HRs in the first half of '28 to fashion a wraparound season where he actually hits 63 HRs! (Aaron Judge will get a shot at breaking that record in the first half of 2023; it will be an uphill climb.)

And note that the Babe hit 60 HRs again in the wraparound season of 1929-30.

One of the last conversations my Dad and I had centered around Ruth. He allowed as how a player like Willie Mays was possibly more "exciting" because of his defense and speed, but he remembered how the hush came over the crowd in Cleveland Stadium in 1933 when the aging Ruth came to the plate. "People couldn't take their eyes off him," he said. "They didn't want him to do damage to their home team, but they really wanted to see him get hold of one." 

But while Ruth hit .372 with 46 HRs at Cleveland's League Park from 1915-32, he didn't hit a single HR in Cleveland's new park, debuting in the first year of the New Deal. (My Dad took solace in recalling that three years earlier, while visiting his grandparents in Cleveland, he'd been in attendance when the Indians' Earl Averill had hit three homers, with a chance for a fourth in the seventh inning. Averill didn't get it, but he won over my Dad, who became a devoted fan and was overjoyed when his first "big league crush" was inducted into the Hall of Fame.)

Happy birthday, Dad: I miss you and think of you often. And long live Babe Ruth--as in...forever.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


Babe Ruth sends his regrets regarding his coming-out party as the king of both halves of the baseball season--he's tied up right now. (Dontcha know that those bondage freaks come in the most unpredictable sizes...)

SO this time we're going to look at something more quirky than kinky: an arcane but fascinating (trust us!) sub-realm that Babe Ruth was born to inhabit, but somehow never did.

The beauty of this particular digression from our ongoing series (at least as far as we're concerned...) is that it takes us way, way back into the game's history--in fact, almost back to its dawning. Almost--but not quite: let's take a look at yet another of our TimeGrid™charts (at right) to get a sense of just how often our "trace element" within the sub-universe of a player's "offensive shape" has occurred over time. (Note that we're being extra cagey by not even bothering to label the data we're showing you...but fear not, all will be revealed.)

THIS chart agglomerates all of the seasons where one or more hitters had more walks than hits. (We cut off eligibility for this list via playing time: anyone with 300+ PAs and at least as many walks as hits is captured here, in the decade (column) and year.

If you've been here before and haven't yet thought better of it, you'll know that we've written a lot about "walkmen" during our checker(board)ed career. (We love guys who walk a lot.) Think of the folks represented in the numerical distribution above as the "uber walkmen" at the furthest reaches of the "work the count" spectrum. (The average walk percentage, or BBP as we abbreviate it, for the 93 player-seasons in this special little tribe of hitters is 21%, about two and a half times the historical average for MLB.)

Since we endeavor to avoid extra-lengthy posts, we won't provide a detailed accounting of the players on the list. But here are some highlights. The first of this type was William "Yank" Robinson, one of only two players to have BB≥H in four consecutive seasons, from 1888-1891. (We'll let you think about who the other player might be.) Changes in the game and the coming of the Deadball Era stopped "uber walkmen" in their tracks for about thirty years, save for Tony Smith (an obscure infielder with 500 lifetime PAs who is the only player with a lifetime record of BB≥H (95 walks, 90 hits) and the much better-known Jimmy Sheckard, who found "walk religion" at age 32 and who had BB≥H for the last three years of his career.

BB≥H guys might have remained this rare until the advent of the "four Eddies" (Stanky, Joost, Lake and Yost) in the 40s save for the Philadelphia A's Max Bishop, the record holder for most BB≥H seasons (six: 1926-27, 1929-30, 1932, 1934). Well-traveled Roy Cullenbine was the first "uber walkman" to emerge in the 40s, with more power than the folk who'd preceded him, with a career cut short by the prevailing gap in understanding of the value of OBP over BA. He was followed by the aforementioned foursome, who weren't particularly fearsome, merely pesky. (And there is a Johnny Pesky season to be found here, in 1952, a decade in which he is increasingly surrounded by folk with more power--Aaron Robinson, Wes Westrum, Earl Torgeson.)

The first "superstar uber walkman" appears in 1954, in the form of none other than Ted Williams. He's soon followed by Mickey Mantle, who has two such seasons--1962, when he's at the tail end of his peak, and 1968, at the tail end of his career. Another Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew, also has a BB≥H season in 1968, in what was a really down year for his BA.

As you can see, this "trace element" within the game finds a way to persist at the edge of extinction for the next four decades from a continuing variety of "uber walkmen" subtypes. It's a kind of validation that at a subconscious level, baseball is not calcifying itself into the type of game where unorthodox combinations of offensive production are not automatically shunned. 

But as baseball morphs itself toward a game favoring isolated power, the types of hitters who populate the BB≥H subgroup begins to shift toward a certain class of low-BA slugger, which leads to a veneration of that type of hitter whether he can draw a lot of walks or not. Hence in the 70s you see the list of names shift from folks like Dennis Menke and Wayne Garrett to Gene Tenace, Otto Velez, Ken Phelps, Rob Deer. The last of the former type of these "uber walkmen" to make an appearance is Lance Blankenship, who had a brief career as the "Max Bishop of the 90s" with the same franchise (only now on the opposite coast in Oakland).

"Superstar uber walkmen" became much more commonplace in the 70s and 80s (Willie McCovey, Jim Wynn, Jack Clark) and this continued into the 90s with Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield. The ultimate "superstar uber walkman," of course, spread himself over the 2000s in a way that still produces malingnant memories for many folk: that would be Barry Bonds, who matches Bishop for the most BB≥H seasons (2001-04, 2006-07) and ties Yank Robinson with four consecutive seasons in this rarefied company. 

Some lesser sluggery types (Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Morgan Ensberg) accompanied Bonds as the 2000s kept on producing a semi-robust number of BB≥H seasons, but things have dissipated in the 2010s, as quants followed the lead of neo-sabes and continued the push toward ever-increasing ISO as the "one-stop shopping" model for run scoring. 

That's troubling news, of course, but it's just another sign of the times. We do have four BB≥H seasons in the short span of our current decade, however, but these are not likely to lead to a new lifeline with respect to this ever-endangered species. There are still no low/mid power guys hitting .250 and walking 20% of the time: guys like Stanky and Ferris Fain seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird. Now we have Yasmani Grandal (close to the target sub-type in his '21 season, but too much ISO) and Joey Gallo (whose .160 BA creates a lot of backlash in a timeframe troubled by the decline in BA even as quants decry the need to measure it anymore).

Finally, there's Juan Soto, a true anomaly: a young superstar who had a not-quite "superstar uber walkman season" at the tender of age of 23. Clearly Soto has a great batting eye, but the chart at left shows that the vast majority of players who populate the BB≥H subworld are folks on the other side of 30 (which is why Bill James dubbed high walking percentage as an "old player's skill"). We'd love to see Soto demonstrate that this isn't necessarily so, but there's a downside: a number of older players who've done this do so to compensate for other skills that are in serious decline, and becoming too passive at the plate can exacerbate those tendencies and possibly hasten their exit. (Witness, for example, the career of Jimmy Sheckard...or what happened to Roy Cullenbine.)

Soto is clearly a greater talent that those two, of course; and he can always get more aggressive, since his next team, when paying for someone with a superstar reputation, is going to want to see higher BA and higher RBI totals that came out of Soto's 2022 season (still an excellent year, as measured by OPS+ and other "more advanced metrics"). So far in spring training this year, Soto is being more aggressive, and he's blistering the ball. We're all for that, as it will be better for the sub-species if he moves out of it for awhile, so that he might return to it for a number of years after he's 30. We still need superstars just as much as we need "uber walkmen"...

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


Life has been momentously wet over the past week, which has prevented us from putting the voluble Teddy Ballgame in your face until now. Now that things are (at least temporarily...) dried off, it's time to see his 22 half-seasons that made the Top 300 (in either the first half or second half). You'll note that he occupies the #1 slot on one of these lists, and the #300 slot on the other:

Thirteen of these 22 half-seasons occurred by the end of the 1940s, with the bulk of his Top 100 entries coming in that time frame (ten out of fourteen). Note also that Williams was not really a sluggy slugger for most of his career: of these twenty-two top half-seasons, only seven featured 20+ HRs. He was over 15 HRs in a half-season thirteen more times, of course, but 30-35 HRs per season is not really a dominant total for most of the years in his career. This was still a hitter driven by getting as many different kind of hits as possible throughout most of his career.

And there are the three Top 10 half-seasons: no one managed to have them over such a protracted period in a career. As amazing as his second half in 1941 is, it's actually eclipsed by what "old man" Williams (age 38) did sixteen years later. More mind-blowing is how he did it: still suffering from the effects of pneumonia as the season wound down, Williams revved up in the second half of September to hit .632 (12-for-19), including five HRs (two as a pinch-hitter). In the midst of this, he actually drew more walks than hits...and considering how he hot he was (fueled by the remnants of a fever?), opposing pitchers probably should've done to him what they did fifty-odd years later to Barry Bonds--take one look at him and walk him intentionally.

That sizzling but surreal September surge pushed Williams' second-half BA up to a remarkable .454, the second highest half-season batting average in baseball history. (Do you remember who #1 is?)

Time may eventually chip away at a couple of these entries (the #300 in the first half of 1940, and the #293 in the second half of 1960, Williams' final year) but nothing will erode the memory of the game's most cantankerous--and preternaturally gifted--hitters.

Now let's look at Williams' "wraparound seasons" (second half of Year A/first half of immediately adjacent Year B):

Unlike Ty Cobb, whose wraparound seasons produced some prodigiously high batting average, Williams had a more marked tendency to follow a big BA second half with a significantly lower BA in the adjacent first half. But we do see a peak HR total emerge from the 1949-50 wraparound season, where he slugged 48 HRs in 146 games. 

Note also that there are two half seasons where Williams has more walks than hits. It's extremely rare for players to do this over the course of a full season: only 93 players with at least 300 PAs in a standard season have managed to do so (Barry Bonds, of course, did that six times). Williams only did it once in an orthodox season, in 1954 (136 walks, 133 hits). In the first half of 1947, pitchers clearly didn't want to give him anything to hit, walking him 92 times in 317 PAs: he had only 69 hits.

What's notable about the "walks > hits" scenario is how rarely player with high BAs are found on the list. Williams hit .345 in the season where he had more walks than hits: the average player who registers such a phenomenon has hit only .241 when doing so. (Sixty-three of the ninety-three "walk > hit" seasons occurred when the hitter in question hit .250 or less...)

We'll now move on to the man with the most Top 300 half-seasons ever, which is another, admittedly more arcane baseball record that he owns. We will bring him to you just as soon as we possibly can...stay tuned.

Sunday, March 5, 2023


We are now in the realm of the true baseball Gods--the three hitters who remain at the pinnacle of accomplishment across the 160-year history of the professional game. Year in, decade out; generation in, millennium out--they are there, and are likely to remain there until there is no more baseball.

By the measure of Top 300 half-seasons (either first half or second half), Ty Cobb ranks #3. (We'll cover the other two separately in subsequent posts). 

His total of 19 just edges out Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds, but it's probably not that close. The variably flawed measures that the cognoscenti continue to spar about (Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares) suggest that Cobb's career is of greater value than either Gehrig (who lost several years to a fatal illness) and Bonds (who was something of a late bloomer, not reaching truly elite performance levels until the age of 26). While those methods are flawed, they do come up with an accurate assessment in this case.

Our Top 300 half-season measure is an alternate method for assessing peak performance, and Ty Cobb clearly had his peaks. Let's take a look at all 19 of them:

That's a lot of peak performance, wouldn't you say? Even in our age that continues to belittle batting average, you can't help but be impressed by the fact that Cobb had seven .400+ half-seasons, beginning at the age of 21 in 1909--a time frame when the Deadball Era was thriving (is there some kind of contradiction there? "Deadballs" thriving?? We leave that to you...)

Of course, Cobb did not hit homers--that was the thing in the Deadball Era that was truly dead. But the man could hit doubles and triples with great regularity. (Remember to multiply the totals for doubles and triples you see above by two to get a sense of what those numbers would look like if prorated for a full season: there are ten instances where Cobb's doubles total projects to over 40 for a full season. Note that Cobb would hit 10+ triples in all nineteen prorated seasons that we can extrapolate from his half-season peaks.)

His greatest half-season is clearly his first-half run in 1911, a year when the ball was given some extra oomph. Halfway through that year, Cobb projected to hit 50 doubles and 32 triples--an unfathomable combination even during those times, when triples were the primary power stat. As it worked out, he wound up with 47 doubles and 24 triples for the 1911 season--a feat that no one has duplicated, before or since. (Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Adam Comorosky came close in 1930, with 47 doubles and 23 triples, but 1930 was also the hittingest year in baseball history.)

1925 also stands out: Cobb was 37, and he decided to change his batting style to show what he could do in the new landscape of the game as defined by Babe Ruth's slugging exploits. He didn't quite have the juice to hit homers with the regularity of a true slugger, but he put on a spectacular show for the first half of the 1925 season, hitting .410, slugging close to .700 (the highest half-season SLG in his career), and registered a 1.194 OPS. 

We can have some more fun with Cobb's half-seasons, using them to familiarize you further with our concept of "wraparound seasons," or the "back-to-front" season-equivalent totals that can be fashioned by adding up the second half of Year X with the first half of Year X+1. When we do that for Cobb, we get six rather impressive wraparound seasons to contemplate:

Note that four of these "wraparound seasons" are composed of eight consecutive "high achievement" half-season. The young Cobb was probably the greatest terror ever seen on a baseball diamond at such an age (he's 21 through 25 during this time). That fact is not exactly unknown, but looking at in this way certainly amplifies it further!

Note that four of Cobb's wraparound seasons produce a .400+ BA, and two seasons in which he hits more than 25 triples. How many players have done that in a front-to-back season? Only five. (One of them, Cobb's teammate Sam Crawford, did it twice.)

Cobb also has ten half-seasons in the Top 100 for either first half or second half. 

It's hard to imagine anyone being more astonishingly impressive than what's displayed here, but we'll return soon with the half-season data for the two guys who actually outpace Cobb. Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 4, 2023


As those of you who read this blog regularly know, we're not fans of the Boston Red Sox. The reasons for this (and for our "anti-fandom" for certain other franchises) are well documented in posts here over the years, but...

So--we reversed the Sox logo to remind you that
we're still in the "anti-fan" category...
...But today we kiss the feet of anyone currently associated with the Red Sox, for they've opened a can of worms with respect to the rules changes underway in baseball for 2023. And by doing so as baseball insiders take a more activist role in shaping the game (as we've been advocating here virtually since the inception of this blog in 2010), they've opened the door for a re-examination of one of our pet ideas that is now just a step away from being 100% relevant to innovations still needed for the game.

So what did the Red Sox do, anyway? They got around the infielder shift ban that promised to eliminate the defense's ability to turn hits into outs (as has been practiced in increasing numbers over the past half-decade). How did they do that? By simply moving an outfielder into the same location that was formerly occupied by the second baseman for purposes of picking off erstwhile hits from left-handed batters.

For, you see, there's nothing in the rules about where you must position your outfielders!

Of course, this constitutes a bigger gamble by teams, because they are leaving a much greater amount of outfield territory open by doing so. The now-banned shift formation kept three outfielders in their standard positions, opening up only the left side of the infield, which made defenses vulnerable to extra singles. This "loophole" implementation that moves an outfielder into short right leaves teams vulnerable to doubles (and possibly some triples) because of the extra ground in the outfield that will need to be covered should a hitter launch one into left field.

SO how does this play into the "crackpot" schemes that you may (dimly) remember being proposed here previously? Our guess is that the players will resist a rule that forces outfielders to be positioned as strictly as possible (though perhaps they could find something that they want in a labor-oriented negotiation in order to permit it). So the "loophole" will likely remain in place--and there's a way to take that "loophole" further in terms of strategy and entertainment value.

That's right, kiddies--we are again talking about our infamous 190-foot rule, discussed here just enough to alienate a few of our former colleagues (who, as a result, can no longer be bothered to stay in touch with us anymore after many decades of friendship). 

For those who've forgotten all about it, the diagram at right is the place to start. We propose to change the shape of extra-base hits and bring back a significantly higher number of triples per game by instituting a rule that has a carefully limited impact on how the game is played. 

The line on the field is where one of the team's outfielders must stand in front of during a single designated inning (so as to not distort the possible outcome of the game, we recommend nothing later than the sixth inning) to forcibly create extra distance between the remaining outfielders. That extra distance will create a significantly greater likelihood of triples during each of the two half-innings it structures how the outfield is to be configured, and it will apply for all hitters in those innings, not just the ones that were targeted by the now-banned "shift."

If you think about it for a minute, our 190-foot rule is de facto the same thing (or at least is highly similar) to what the Red Sox employed the other day.

So why not take this idea further, creating entire innings where the defense is stretched into a configuration that puts them at greater risk due to the increased possibility of extra base hits? A rule like this would incentivize hitters to look for the (larger) gaps in the outfield and try to take advantage of the defense (for one half-inning each, home team and visiting team) having--so to speak--one hand tied behind its back.

How many more triples will occur with two half-innings devoted to a defensive scheme of this type? Our prediction is that the number of triples will be tripled. Fans (or even anti-fans...) will see their team hit a triple ever other game, as opposed to once every six games as things currently stand. 

Now, "Saint Theo" (Theo Epstein, former GM wizard who's now the game's "rules change guru") is on record concerning the fans' desire to see more doubles and triples. We'd like Theo to take off his PR blazer for a moment and own up to the fact that triples are far more exciting than doubles and are about ten times as scarce--so if he really wants to do something significant, he should cast about for a way to dramatically increase the number of triples per game.

In support of that, we have the (admittedly not-scientific) results from Bill James in the form of a Twitter poll he ran a few years ago, which is reproduced at left. Sure, it's only 2300 votes, but those who follow James on Twitter are devoted fans with a deep sense of the current strengths and weaknesses of the game. Those percentages aren't close, folks--as Theo notes, fans want to see more on-field action. And there is nothing more action-packed than a triple--the hit that is the game's perfect combination of speed and power. 

Now even assuming that some folks voted for triples simply because they are so scarce, it still behooves us to find a way to accede to that desire and implement some way of making it happen. Tripling the number of triples is not going to make them so common that folks will say "ho-hum"--and if it's done in the context of an inning where a defensive rule has been (temporarily) imposed to increase those chances, it's going to create anticipation and excitement in the game beyond just the fact that there are more triples.

One question that may remain in your mind is how to actually implement the rule. What governs its use? We see two choices: 1) a random assignment to each team prior to the game, where each is assigned a half-inning on defense (innings three through six) where their center fielder must play in front of the 190-foot line; 2) managers are allowed to choose their half-inning (again, innings three through six) where they force the opposition to align their outfield according to the 190-foot rule. In that way managers can look at who they have coming up to bat and decide when they think they have the best chance to exploit the advantage that the rule will afford them.

But, but--you are objecting. You can't impose such a rule on the defense--it's not fair! We want laissez-faire capitalism to dictate a free, unfettered, ruggedly individualistic brand of baseball where we all "live free or die." (OK, that's a bit over the top, even for us...)

But, semi-conscientious (or is that semi-conscious...) objectors: baseball has already imposed a limitation on defense with their two infielders to a pair of pants--er, to each side of the diamond--rule. The door is now open for other, more creative--and most importantly, strictly limited in scope--additions to such limits in order to give baseball more variety, more unpredictability...

...And more excitement. We remain firmly convinced that this will be the most exciting and entertaining rule change in the history of the game. It will also change the shape of extra-base hits in an astonishing manner. The record for most triples in a season--36, by Owen "Chief" Wilson
back in 1912--will suddenly be in danger. The ghost of the Chief will probably visit us with vengeance on his mind, but we'll calmly inform his shrieking ectoplasm that records--even the record for triples, for Crissakes--are meant to be broken. 

Let's implement this rule and let the fun begin.

Friday, March 3, 2023

THE TOP 600 HALF-SEASONS/12: A FEW NUMBERS GET SKIPPED... in 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. 

That's the "gaposis" in the Top 600 pantheon as we move into the most rarefied, sacrosanct--and controversial--region of the half-season peak performances. 

And we have not one, but two hitters who cracked the Top 300 in either the first half or the second half a staggering total of 18 times.

One is arguably the most venerated of all baseball players (at least this side of Don Mattingly); the other is the most vilified (the flip side of Hal Chase).

We think you'll recognize the names as they each flash by 18 times...

Actually, Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds make for a fascinating juxtaposition. Larrupin' Lou has his greatest half-season in his very first appearance on the list, with more than 100 RBI, 68 (!) extra-base hits, a batting average of .398 and an OPS of 1.314. It's the fifth best first-half offensive performance in baseball history.

Bad Boy Barry takes a little while longer to get going, breaking through in the "wraparound year" of 1992-93 (second half/first half) where he hits .334 with 43 HR and 125 RBI. The inkling that something extraordinary is coming, however, doesn't really appear until 2000, when his HR totals and SLG take a marked turn upward, presaging the otherworldly achievements that followed in 2001-04, where seven of his eight half-seasons during that time are in the Top Ten of all-time. 

Of especial note is Barry's .908 SLG while he is in pursuit of Mark McGwire's shockingly short-lived single-season HR record during the second half of 2001; like Gehrig's first half in 1927, it ranks 5th all-time. He's in the top ten seven more times during this time frame. His SLG exceeds .800 in five half-seasons. By 2004, no one wants to pitch to him--and he still manages to hit 45 HR that year and post the identical OPS (a staggering 1.421) in each half! 

There are only three players who outpace these two in terms of the number of Top 300 half-seasons...we think you have a good idea of just who they are, and we'll be seeing them directly. Stay tuned... 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023


We're just slightly off in the structuring of this ongoing presentation of offensive transcendence--by all rights our look at those folk with twelve appearances in the Top 600 all-time half-seasons should have been the twelfth in the series...but so it goes.

Here are four all-time greats that you would probably not link together ordinarily, but they make for a most satisfying quartet:

Each of these estimable batsmen crack the Top 100 for either 1st half/2nd half dominance on multiple occasions...

To be specific...Honus Wagner does it three times, landing in the Top 25 twice (in consecutive second halves for 1907 and 1908, a time frame when offensive levels were at historical lows).

Tris Speaker cracks the Top 100 six times, including three half-seasons later in his career where he cracks the .400 barrier (and, more significantly, the .500 barrier for OBP). 

Jimmie Foxx lands in the Top 100 nine times, exceeding a .700 SLG six times, and actually hitting .400 for one half-season early on (when he was just 22 years old). 

And Stan Musial evolves into a slugger after WWII, joining the Top 100 five times, lifting his SLG over .700 three times, and hitting over .400 in the first half of his greatest overall season in 1948. But it's hard to pick against that second half in 1949, with 59 XBH in 78 games.

There's a rolling historical continuity in this quartet's half-seasonal dominance that extends across more than half a century without overlapping in any single season. It's as if a torch of excellence was passed from one to the other and carried forward across time. Their combined half-season peaks total to nearly 5000 hits, nearly 1000 doubles (973 to be exact), over 300 triples, and 552 homers, with a collective batting average of .366. Put that into your pipe and smoke it...

Sunday, February 26, 2023


We live in an age where the various flavors of "acting out" have become so widespread & cross-collateralized that our senses--particularly taste, hearing and smell--have become less and less distinguishable from one another. (If Jimi Hendrix were still with us, he might just alter the lyrics of one of his famous songs to read: "Cultural synesthesia is such a frustrating mess...")

The first full day of baseball's 2023 spring training brought this home when several incidents involving the bizarre conclusion to a game between the Red Sox and the Braves sent the media, the fans, and so-called experts into a flurry of tongue-wagging. In the bottom of the ninth, with the game tied, 6-6, and with the bases loaded and a full count (that's 3 balls and 2 strikes, in case you've been in asynchronous orbit since 1889...), the home plate umpire called out the batter for not training his eyes on the pitcher within eight seconds. 

Braves' skipper Snitzer snorts as his team is burned by a bizarre twist
in the new "pitch clock" rule...
There was initial confusion, of course, because the batter thought he'd been awarded first base and began to make his way there in anticipation of a Braves' win. But he was swiftly advised otherwise by the home plate umpire, who waved him out and brought the game to an abrupt conclusion due to the stipulation that no spring training game will exceed nine innings in length. 

This immediately created a whirlwind of responses that, previously, we might have called a hue-and-cry-- save for the absence of the former and the superabundance of the latter. Players, managers, media folk, and fans all manifested prodigious cases of mouth-foam within seconds of hearing the news. 

Our informal survey of these howls of outrage quantified the reaction as roughly 56.3% negative, 12.9% positive, and 30.8% either impassive, undecided or blissfully unconscious. (Those three flavors of "other" don't track exactly with those increasingly indistinguishable senses we mentioned at the outset, but they'll do in a pinch.)

A standard negative response was: "just wait until this happens in the World Series." A more unusual positive response was: "just wait until this happens in the World Series!". And the response in the "other" category was: "Do they still play the World Series?".

For the record, the exact events that occurred in yesterday's spring training game simply cannot happen in the World Series--or in any other regular season game, for that matter. If we were in the regular season, the Braves would have been called out, their rally stopped at tying the score (Atlanta had scored three runs to tie the game before the bizarre batter punch-out occurred), and the game would have moved into the top of the tenth inning.

Some of the positive folk reminded us that the rule was being implemented from the get-go in spring training to ensure that everyone understood how it worked so that such "pitch clock violations" would be minimized when the regular season started. Other positivists were disappointed by such a stance, however, hoping that the violations would be much more frequent so that they'd become a significant new stat.

Clearly the rule can create many flavors: as it can occur at any time during the at-bat, from the initial pitch at 0-0 all the way to twelve fouls on a 3-2 count, all of those variations will need to be annotated. And any such invocation of the rule on three-ball and two-strike counts that "resolves" a plate appearance (walk or strikeout) will also have to be noted separately. 

TLP™: as unappetizing as ever!
Of course, the Tango Love Pie™ reminded us that the catcher can be the agent of discord (a thought process that, unsurprisingly, comes naturally to the Anti-Christ of sabermetrics). His claim was that the Red Sox catcher lulled the Braves' batter into not getting set in time, even though it was the sixth pitch of the at-bat and it's almost certain that the actions of the catcher were incidental to what happened. (It's much more likely the batter simply took longer because it's natural that, at a moment such as the one in question, batters habitually take a few seconds longer to get set.)

The mixed up flavors of the (monochromatic) hue and the (mouth-foam gargled) cry will continue, as "traditionalists" and "innovators" each draw from the bottom of a deck that's actually stacked in the middle. Frankly, the game needs more controversy, more change, more things to argue about--but it needs to do it in a far more meaningful way that what's manifested in the 2023 rule changes. 

We hope the controversy continues into the season, and that unintended consequences help us break through the strangled synesthesia that has settled in on the little world of baseball and the big world of cultural-political gridlock. How fitting that the imposition of a clock into a game can distract us from the "big clock" ticking on the planet, and leave us so willing to blindly react. Tradition and experimentation need to exist in tandem, so that complex interactive systems and forces can be more fully examined and understood. What the hell--let's all play "beat the clock"...because, in the end, that's all any of us can try to do--until we can't.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


The air is getting more and more rarified up here in the half-world of the half-season. We'll now look at those hitters who have between seven and eleven appearances on our two Top 300 lists which use the splits at (1st half/second half) and ordering the results into a top-down leader list based on OPS+.

It's late, so let's not waste time...

These two really need no introduction. Note that Frank Robinson has a wraparound season (2nd half 1966/1st half 1967) that is almost identical in result to his MVP year in the Orioles first World Championship year. Hank Aaron tended to have hot starts: five of his seven appearances in the Top 600 stem from first half performances. Aaron's best half season, which ranks 24th all-time according to OPS+ comes in the second half of 1971, however. 

It's hard to imagine that we can move up in stature from these guys, but here we go...

You've probably heard of these four as well...oddly, only Willie Mays doesn't have a Top 25 half-season in amongst his appearances in the Top 300. Rogers Hornsby has two "wraparound" (or "back to front") seasons interspersed into his eleven appearances on the list, and in both of them he hit .400+ in each half of the year: 2nd half 1922/first half 2023, where he hits .404 and .403; and 2nd half 1924/first half 1925, where he hits .451 (!) and .425. 

Mays has two wraparound seasons in amongst his ten stellar half-years: 2nd half 1959/first half 1960, and second half 1963/first half 1964. And Mickey Mantle has two wraparound years of his own as well: 2nd half 1959/first half 1960, and 2nd half 1961/first half 1962.

All in all, we think you can take it to the bank that these guys happen to be pretty good hitters...but brace yourself, for our next journey toward the pinnacle is almost straight up.

Saturday, February 18, 2023


From this point on, the hitters with six or more half-seasons in the Top 600 (if you're coming in here in media res, we've assembled the Top 300 hitting half-years--1st half/2nd half--as measured by OPS+) are all in the Hall of Fame EXCEPT for those just retired, those still on the ballot, and those who are being punished for one reason or another. Let's dig into our six-timers:

Nap Lajoie's 1901 season is justifiably legendary, with the second half setting records that would take nearly twenty years to eclipse. Hank Greenberg clearly had two modes of "hitting dominance": the high-BA, doubles-heavy version, and the all-out slugger version (as put on display breathtakingly in the second half of 1938, when he made the second serious assault on Babe Ruth's golden number of 60). Ralph Kiner operated at a lower level that his companions, but he was a prodigious, dependable slugger with just enough gas in the tank to top off a ten-year career and make into the Hall of Fame. (Today he might be seen as a much more problematic candidate...)

The three sluggers in the immediate post-expansion period all reflect the changing game that, in the mid-sixties, looked a lot like what we've been struggling through over the past decade or so. All of them saw their BAs dip under .300 on at least one occasion during their half-year peaks. The most electrifying half-season in this display belongs to Willie McCovey, whose first half performance in 1969 ranks 27th all time: it pretty much clinched his MVP award that year. The next year, Harmon Killebrew came out of the blocks on fire to post one of his two Top 100 first-half performances, helping to lead the Minnesota Twins to their second consecutive division title in the AL West. In 1972, Dick Allen finally added a high-level 2nd half performance to his string of five top-notch 1st half performances, capping his MVP season in a year where the AL run scoring level was almost as low as what baseball experienced in "The Year of the Pitcher" (1968). Dick's six appearances here constitute another reason why he belongs in the HOF...but don't hold your breath.

Frank Thomas was an especially punishing hitter, particularly in the first half of his career: his peak in the first half of 1994 is simply delirious, ranking #12 all-time. The pure slugging of Mark McGwire has been unfairly tainted by the steroid police; lost in all the hue and cry is that in 1999, the year after his 70-HR "abomination," he had his most sluggery half-season ever, with a SLG of .810(!). 

Coors Field brought out the beast in Larry Walker, and obscured by the McGwire-Sosa homer chase of 1998 is the fact that he hit .402 in the second half. (Voters were finally able to look past the "Denver effect" and enshrine him into the Hall in his final year of eligibility.) His teammate Todd Helton (who specialized in hot second halves) is just a few votes away from joining him. We will wait only until 2028 to do the same for Albert Pujols, whose career looks like a more HR-heavy version of Frank Thomas.

Right-handed hitters dominate this list: eight (Lajoie, Greenberg, Kiner, Killebrew, Allen, Thomas, McGwire and Pujols) as opposed to the three lefties (McCovey, Walker, Helton). We'll put that into overall perspective a bit later on in the series...

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


There aren't many defensive catchers in the Hall of Fame, despite an increasing recognition (and more than occasional over-inflation) of the position's significance in the art of run prevention. Most of the backstops in the Hall are mashers first, and "tools of ignorance" intellects second. These range from Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett through Bill Dickey and Ernie Lombardi, to Yogi Berra through Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza, and even to someone like Johnny Bench (though he was lauded lavishly for his defense), those non-hitting catchers who've been inducted (Ray Schalk, Rick Ferrell, Al Lopez) all seem questionable at best.

The most recent catcher inductee is close to being a defensive catcher: Ivan Rodriguez had a pretty good bat, maybe a bit more than that in his prime. But the next two HOF candidates who spent significant time behind the plate--Joe Mauer and Buster Posey--fit the hitter-first model, and seem destined to prevail despite relatively short careers. 

Yadier Molina, just retired, looks like a significant exception to the general rule. Because his hitting is relatively indifferent (a career OPS+ of 96), some question whether he'll make it. But there are some compelling arguments in his favor...

First is his relationship to overall team accomplishment. There's no other catcher who played with the same team as long as Molina (19 years, 18 as the first-stringer). From 2005 to the present, the St. Louis Cardinals have posted an aggregate .551 WPCT, third in baseball for the time frame (behind only the Yankees and the Dodgers. The team's ERA in that span is also third best.

Second--and most crucial to his Cooperstown candidacy--is his record on defense. Bill James' Win Shares suggests that he's the second-best defensive catcher in history, trailing only Ivan Rodriguez--a catcher who moved around a lot in his 20+-year career and had a more indifferent record of success. Rodriguez' bat, combined with his defensive prowess, earned him a spot in the HOF on the first ballot. Presume for a moment that Molina is essentially even with Rodriguez defensively; given that pinnacle of performance behind the plate, such an evaluation would extrapolate into a scenario where Molina makes the HOF through the front door somewhere between his third and fifth year of ballot eligibility.

But there might be more compelling data regarding his defense, specifically with respect to his ability to curtail the opposition running game. Looking at the stolen base/caught stealing data from the past eighteen years (2005-2022), we can see that Molina is totally in a class by himself with regard to limiting stolen bases/stolen base attempts and in stolen base success rate. The chart at right shows just how better than average at this important aspect of a catcher's defensive performance Molina actually is. 

Most of the data in the chart (the blue diamond-shaped markers) conforms to a relative narrow, solidly linear performance range: it captures each team's number of running game events relative to the major league average for 2005-22. 

But then there's that lone red diamond down in the lower left corner. Keep in mind that this is a scatter chart, with the horizontal dimension measuring the opponent's stolen base success rate. It ranges from lower (better in terms of defensive performance) to higher (worse) from left to right. 

That red diamond represents Yadier Molina's defensive performance relative to the running game for the past eighteen years. As you may know, stolen base success rates have improved over that time frame, as managers have curtailed the running game during a big-homer era. Managers curtailed stolen base attempts against Molina more assiduously than anyone (as the near -800 event value indicates), but in doing so they couldn't mitigate his stunning effectiveness in throwing out opposition baserunners.

This chart demonstrates Molina's defensive singularity, a performance level probably not approached by any other catcher in baseball history. It's pretty much all we need to know in terms of his suitability for a plaque in Cooperstown. We doubt that he'll make it in his first year of eligibility--as noted, his hitting was indifferent (though he had his moments). But there is no better case for a defensive catcher with respect to the Hall of Fame, and Molina's level and length of achievement suggests that he could make it as early as his second or third year. He deserves it...

Sunday, February 12, 2023

THE TOP 600 HALF-SEASONS/8: THE "4's" & "5's"...

Onward and upward (as "they" used to say...) into ever-more frequent displays of peak hitting performance. This time, we're going to show the hitters with four and five half-seasons on the Top 600 list: the two groups are mixed together temporally to maintain an overall chronological approach. Here we go:

Five of the seven hitters in the 1913-1959 time frame are already in Cooperstown; the short careers of Gavvy Cravath (late bloomer) and Charlie Keller (premature career-ending injury) have kept those two on the outside looking in.

The five-timer list in this time frame creates a comparison that rarely seems to get made by baseball's stat analysts: Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Mize. Teammates on the Yankees briefly during the final phase of their WWII-shortened careers, these two conjure opposed memories--Joe D. a graceful, right-hand hitting center fielder, Mize a brawny, left-hand hitting first baseman--but their overall career stats are virtually identical. Their greatest seasons both occurred before the war, though Mize's early years in the Polo Grounds (1946-48) provided him with a short porch that boosted his homer totals. 

Duke Snider's career HR totals might seem less impressive in the wake of what followed in subsequent seasons, but his five consecutive 40+-HR seasons is still a record. Five appearances in the Top 600 is another indicator of his peak performance capabilities, including a whopper of a "wraparound season" (2nd half '53/first half '54) that combines for 47 HR, 141 RBI and a .700+ SLG. 

Now we move (inexorably) toward the present day:

It's still quite possible that Mike Trout will at least join the "five-timer" group before his career is over, though injuries have slowed him down a bit since his last appearance in the Top 600. The other "four-timers" shown here are either still outside the Hall of Fame (Norm Cash, whose candidacy is still valiantly advocated by Bill James...) or considered by some as somewhat "marginal" inductions (Billy Williams and David Ortiz). 

The most recent "five-timers" are all on much firmer ground, with longer careers and elevated totals in counting stats (three of the four with 3000+ hits, three of four with 1500+ RBI, two of four with 500+ HR). All four (Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett, Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera) have "Top 100" credentials within umbrella of the Top 600 as well, with Cabrera's "wraparound year" (2nd half 2012/1st half 2013) especially impressive: 56 HR, 163 RBI, .355 BA, .670 SLG.

As of now, eight of the 15 hitters in the "4's" and "5's" are in the Hall of Fame. Eventually that total will be eleven (though it appears that it will take some form of "Vets Committee" to get Ramirez in, due to his perceived transgressions), which means that the "HOF peak percentage" for these two combined categories will (ultimately) reach 73%. 

We'll continue onward (and upward) in short order...

Saturday, February 11, 2023


We continue "up the food chain" within our Top 600 half-season data set; we're now focusing on those who produced more than one appearance on the list (with a side focus on the percentage of such hitters who've been inducted into the Hall of Fame).

Keeping count as we press upward: of the hitters who made it onto the list once, 23% of those players are in the Hall of Fame (not counting active players). As we noted at the conclusion of our last post, 31% of the hitters with two appearances on the list have been inducted (though it goes up over a third when we remove several folk who are still active--Aaron Judge, Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, J.D. Martinez). 

Now we move up one more notch--the hitters appearing in the Top 600 three times:

We can see immediately that we've got a higher correlation to the HOF with this "gang of five" (from the early years, 1900-1931). The only hitter not enshrined is Benny Kauff, whose high-flying years were in the short-lived Federal League and whose career was cut short by scandal. Ed Delahanty's stellar 1902 season registers in both halves, but his first half is the one that OPS+ places in the "Top 40." Eddie Collins has the early lead in the "most time between appearances on the Top 600 list"--seven years. (We'll see how long that holds up...) 

And it may be surprising to see that Hack Wilson's second half in 1930, which produced a record number of RBI (109), ranks only in the middle of the pack (#180). A good bit of that is due to the offensive levels of that blistering year, and some more of it is due to the ballpark (Wrigley Field), which has always been known as the "friendly confines," especially for hitters.

The trend continues in the 1929-1976 time slice for "three-peaters," with five of the six hitters on the list also in the HOG. We have two players who cruise by that "time between" mark set by Collins: Mel Ott goes thirteen years between appearances, with the total distance between first and last appearance spanning fifteen years; Al Kaline goes eleven years between his first and second appearance, and twelve years between his first and his last. 

Most have probably forgotten about what fast starts Willie Stargell had as the chief power source for the Pirates; all of his appearances in the Top 600 are first-half affairs. And we can more easily visualize the unusual combination of elements that made Joe Morgan such a catalyst in the Big Red Machine's back-to-back World Series championships in 1975-76.

The correlation slips a bit in the next forty-year slice (1976-2016), but it's still above the levels for "two-timers" (and will probably step up another notch in the future sometime after Joey Votto retires). That said, some of the most fearsome-looking half-seasons--at least by ordinary stats--are turned in by the non-HOFers (Jack Clark, Albert Belle, Sammy Sosa). Sammy's 2001 season, overshadowed by Barry Bonds and his 73 HRs, is only going to get more impressive with the passage of time.

Our Hall of Fame correlation jumps up strongly here: 12 of the 17 non-active players who registered "three-peats" on the Top 600 half-season peak list are enshrined, or just over 70%. Keep that in mind as we move further up the food chain...

Friday, February 10, 2023


 Back to the half-season high-flyers, and we move into the realm of the "repeat offenders," starting with the hitters who managed two half-seasons in the Top 300 of either first-half or second-half standout performances.

We'll break up this sort into four segments, with some brief comments and a summary at the end. First, we go back to modern baseball's "dawn of time"...

We'll give away the subtext here at the outset: players in bold type are the ones who've been elected to the Hall of Fame. We'll add that total up for each grouping--the one-timers, two-timers, three-timers, and on up.

Here in the Deadball era, you have two-timers who mostly have shorter careers (and who weren't teammates of Frankie Frisch), so only one hitter (Frank Chance) has made it into the HOF. Of the other seven on this list, Jimmy Sheckard and Sherry Magee probably have the most compelling cases for induction, but Cy Seymour and Mike Donlin had the most impressive half-seasons.  

In using a list of this type, we'd tend to weight its relevance for Hall of Fame eligibility based on how many different seasons are represented in the "top half-season" groupings. Thus two-timers like George Stone and Steve Evans, whose peaks are encompassed in the same season, are grouped a bit lower because they simply had a "career year."

Our eight two-timers in the 1920-1959 time frame have fared better relative to the Hall of Fame: five of them have been inducted (only one, Chick Hafey, is part of the Frisch contingent--but Hafey is part of the subgroup who managed to hit .400 in a half-season--and the 1931 NL is not the huge offensive year that you might be assuming, given its proximity to 1930). The top half-seasons (as measured by OPS+) belong to George Sisler in 1920 and Roy Cullenbine in 1946, with the latter exceeding a .500+ OBP in each of his half-season peaks.

Another group of eight, with three in the Hall. Given the time frame, batting average and OPS is depressed somewhat; the best half-seasons here (according to OPS+) are turned in by John Mayberry, who gave Dick Allen a run for his money in the second half of 1972 after a lukewarm start (and was equally impressive in the second half of 1975). Fred Lynn made plenty of waves in the first half of 1975 with one of the most celebrated rookie performance levels of all time (but that was back when the Red Sox still had their tragic mystique). And if you don't think there can be a major difference in offensive levels from one season to the next, take a look at Wade Boggs' half seasons in 1987 and 1988. The latter season is actually more impressive relative to the "adjusted strike zone" imposed after the '87 homer glut, and that's captured in the fact that Boggs hit fourteen fewer HRs in '88 and still had a superior OPS+.

In the past thirty years, we've had twelve more two-timers, with only the first two (Jeff Bagwell and Jim Thome) having thus far made it to Cooperstown. As has been the case of late, only sluggers need apply: twenty of the twenty-four half-seasons shown above are ones where batters hit 20+ homers. Two hitters here--Jose Bautista and Christian Yelich--have "adjacent peaks" that span the second half of one season and the first half of the next: putting those two segments together reveals that Bautista hit 61 HRs in 157 games in his crossover seasons, while Yelich hit 56 in his 144-game "wraparound year."

All in all, eleven of our thirty-six "two-timers" have made it into the Hall of Fame. That's just under a third (31%). We'll track this rate as we move "up the food chain"--up next, the three-timers...

Thursday, February 2, 2023


THE evening before the astonishing email appeared, we'd had a spirited discussion about second basemen and the evaluation issues that seem to plague them--and turn many otherwise intelligent folk into wild-eyed zealots. (That said, however, we also noted how zealotry has "evolved" in the world of increasingly scientific disinformation, recognizing that it's both a mixed and a mixed-up landscape--particularly when it comes to matters as unimportantly essential as a Baseball Hall of Fame.)

We'd replied to a query from a shadowy "Cooperstown consultant" in the year prior to COVID regarding the dismal record of identifying second basemen for the Hall of Fame. We told them that the new methods undercut the old methods when it came to such a process. The ongoing inability to induct deserving second basemen, stemming from the stringent "front door" election requirements, and a diffuse, confused, and increasingly political "side door process," was now combining with a "grievance" mentality (a phenomenon hardly exclusive to baseball...) and was crippling the performance of  the current HOF voter population. 

We suggested a radical approach to the matter, one that had never been implemented previously. And we promptly put the matter out of our heads--even after Jeff Kent's stall-out at just under 50% of the vote in the most recent election. We weren't expecting to see any kind of action from the Hall, as they've adopted a chameleon-like approach to what have become increasingly Byzantine selection processes. 

But then came the email:

"Here at the Hall of Fame, we've tried to employ a hands-off posture regarding the induction process. We're proud to remind you that we have not tampered with the basic election requirements since our inception, as we still believe that a significant majority of support from the baseball writers is the proper approach in the real world (as opposed to the myriad alternative methods we've watched unfold over the past twenty-five years).

But we've come to the conclusion that there are more notable issues with the processes that go beyond our recent efforts to produce more timely results. We've looked for a remedy that might leapfrog some of the stubborn issues still plaguing those who participate in the process. 

Input from several sources convinced us to to take a different perspective. After much discussion, we've decided to employ an approach stemming from that recommendation. Thus we have assembled and implemented a special committee to examine and recommend a global set of inductees based on defensive position. 

Having been convinced that second base and third base were two of the most problematic defensive positions as regards the current status of inductees for the Hall of Fame, we convened a special committee to evaluate second basemen. We found enough consensus between competing perspectives and analyses to arrive at a greatly simplified benchmark for assessing these players, one that reminds us that offense is still a primary consideration for induction into the Hall. 

As many of you reading this know, the analytic tools created in the past forty years have become increasingly complicated, but we were convinced by a relatively simple diagram that five second basemen, with high offensive proficiency, ranging from the often-overlooked nineteenth century to the present day, were deserving of induction. After an additional round of discussion, our special committee concurred and ratified the action we are about to announce. 

First, however, you're directed to the diagram, where the five second basemen (whom we'll identify shortly) are visible in the diamond-shaped markers colored in light green. The rest of the second basemen already inducted into the Hall of Fame are shown with red-colored markers. Please take a moment to look at this diagram, which shows second basemen from left to right based on the year in which their careers ended, and see if you're able to identify the upcoming inductees.

The on-base plus slugging (OPS) method implemented by analyst Pete Palmer and baseball's official historian John Thorn nearly forty years ago remains one of the most useful approaches to offensive productivity, particularly when it is adjusted for various contexts. The chart above brought much needed clarity to a process that had become inordinately tangled and fraught over the years. It was particularly evident that the most recent second baseman who failed to achieve consensus for "front door" induction was merely the most visible example of a process that had unfortunately gone sour. 

Our special committee discussed all of the relevant aspects, and concurred in an approach that would clarify and resolve the cases relating to the five second basemen in question. From that outcome, we are extremely pleased to announce that these players, following the approach taken previously with Negro League players, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame beginning with the ceremony to be held later in 2023. The first two, being from deep in the past, will be jointly inducted; the other three will follow singly in subsequent years, as laid out below. 

Here are their names:

...and then, as if I were Fernand Gravey flitting open his eyes in the singular, matchless French fantasy  LA NUIT FANTASTIQUE (1942, directed by Marcel L'Herbier...), I suddenly realized that what I had been reading was all in my "mind" (or what's left of it...), and that I had, alas, been dreaming...and that, unlike Gravey, whose "nocturnal uproar" in pursuit of the spirited and delectable Micheline Presle had a real-life payoff, I would not be so lucky--and neither would the five second basemen shown with "little green dots" above. 

The Hall of Fame was, is, and probably always will be akin to a Sphinx, and all of those who spend their time attempting to reform it, perform workarounds with respect to it, or simply create their own, are either frustrated archeologists or variable, voluble and variegated looters who think that the "power of the pyramid" is working for them (and them alone)...

...but you, "dear reader," can figure out who these players are, by simply gazing on the "purloined diagram" above; after all, there are only five to be identified. You might even figure out who the three "see no evil, field no evil, hit very little" chimps are with the "red dots" well below the league average line of 100. They are highly beloved for their leather, but not for their wood--which has insulated them from the slings and arrows of the rock, paper, scissors world we live in...but not so our five, who still await their awakening from what remains a seemingly eternal nightmare.