MLB's Best 2nd-Half Performances in the Past 10 Seasons
A baseball season is comprised of 162 grueling games, which stretch over a six-month span. Most of the games are played in the midst of the summer, including the brutal dog days of August.
To play a whole season, and have success, is a true feat. For some players, however, a year can be a tale of two seasons. Certain athletes start the season off to a roaring start in April in May, and then hit a wall the rest of the season.
For others, it takes a little while to get their seasons going before putting together a solid second half and closing out the season in stride. Here's a look at some of the best second-half performances in the past decade.
Manny Ramirez: 2008
Say what you will about his personality. But Manny Ramirez was as much of an offensive juggernaut as he was class clown of baseball during his playing days. He hit 555 home runs over his 19-year career, which ended after just five games in 2011 with the Tampa Rays.
And in 2008, he put one heck of a show in the second half of the season. If we fast-forward a few weeks to August 1, we will see Manny Ramirez wearing his first new uniform in over seven seasons. At the trade deadline that season, the Boston Red Sox shipped their star hitter to Hollywood as part of a three-team deal, involving the Dodgers and Pirates.
And Manny didn't miss a beat playing on the other coast. In 53 games with the Dodgers that year, "Man-Ram" had a robust .396/.489/.743 slash line to go along with 17 home runs and 53 RBI. To put that in perspective, Ramirez had hit 20 home runs and drove in 68 runs in 100 games with the Sox that year, prior to the trade.
That year, Ramirez became just the second player in Major League Baseball history (Carlos Beltran, 2004) to record at least 50 RBI in both leagues in the same season. He also became the fifth player in history to hit at least 15 home runs with two different teams in the same campaign.
Eric Gagne: 2003
It seems like an eternity has gone by since Eric Gagne was a dominant closer for the Dodgers. He saved 152 games for the Dodgers from 2002-2004, including a stretch of 84 consecutive successful saves (the longest such streak in history).
The 2003 season was a magical one for the right-hander from Montreal. He earned the National League's Cy Young award that year. And in the second half, he was practically un-hittable.
From July 13 through September 27 that year, a solo home run to Vladimir Guerrero, then of the Montreal Expos, was the only run to score against Gagne in 38 innings pitched (or a 0.24 ERA for us math majors). He allowed only 14 hits over that span, while saving 24 games for the Dodgers.
The roller coaster has definitely gone downhill since that season for Gagne. But he will always be remembered for that incredible run he had in '03.
Adam LaRoche: 2006
Adam LaRoche has been a streaky hitter for the better part of his big league career. But his splits may not have been quite as stark as they were in 2006.
While the left-handed slugger was manning first base for the Atlanta Braves, LaRoche hit just .251 with 13 home runs in the first half of the season.
In the second half, however, the free-swinger smacked 19 home runs, and batted at a .323 clip. A complete turnaround from the first half of the season helped LaRoche to his first (and so far only) 30-HR season of his career.
Hideki Matsui: 2011
Hideki Matsui is having some kind of second half of 2011 for the Oakland A's. Since this year's All-Star Break, "Godzilla" is batting .385 and has a .439 OBP.
In fact, of the 30 games he has played since the break (entering play on Thursday), Matsui has not recorded a hit in just five. Even more incredible, he's failed to reach base at all in just one game.
Matsui is a potential August trade candidate, since the A's are likely out of contention and there are a number of winning ball clubs looking for some left-handed pop.
Troy Tulowitzki: 2010
Troy Tulowitzki had arguably his best overall season in 2010 for the Rockies. He hit 27 home runs, drove in 95 and had a .315/.381/.568 slash line. He earned his first All-Star nomination, and first Gold Glove award. He finished fifth in the National League MVP voting for the second straight season.
"Tulo" started the season rather slow by his standards. From Opening Day until June 17, he hit .306 with just nine of his 27 home runs. This was all before he suffered a fractured wrist in June and missed about 30 games with the injury.
But he returned to the Rockies on July 27, and proceeded to put up historic second-half numbers. According to MLB.com, the Elias Sports Bureau notes that his September numbers from 2010 put him in some exclusive company.
In September he hit .322 (37-for-115) with six doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 40 RBI, 30 runs scored and an .800 slugging percentage...the only other Major League player to equal or exceed Tulowitzki's totals in both home runs and RBI during September in any season was Babe Ruth, who did it in 1927 (17 HR, 43 RBI)
Tulowitzki's great finish helped the Rockies maintain a better-than-.500 record for the third season in the past four years.
Tulo has maintained his second-half success in 2011. Since this year's Midsummer Classic, the shortstop is hitting over .400 with eight home runs in 127 AB, entering play on Thursday.
Ken Griffey Jr.: 2001
In his second season as a member of his hometown Cincinnati Reds, Ken Griffey Jr. got off to a miserable start in 2001. For the first time in his career, he did not make an Opening Day start. He missed a month-and-a-half with a torn left hamstring, and didn't even start a game for the Reds until he returned from his injury on June 15 (the team's 65th game of the year).
But he made up for his slow start with a razor-sharp second half. From July 12 through the end of the year, Junior slammed 18 of his total 22 home runs (all of which came after he returned from the disabled list). He also hit .304 and slugged .572 over that stretch.
Barry Zito: 2009
Barry Zito's career has basically been a tale of two pitchers. From the time he debuted in Oakland during the 2000 season, the left-hander looked like something special.
And while he we was donning the green and gold, Zito was indeed one of the game's best starting pitchers. From 2000-2006 (all with the A's), Zito won 102 games and had an ERA of 3.55. He was the league's Cy Young award winner in 2002.
But since he joined the team across the Bay in 2007, Zito has pretty much tanked, showing almost no value for the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed. As a member of the Giants, Zito's ERA is almost exactly a run higher, and he's won only 43 games (compared to 61 losses).
But in 2009, Zito did have a remarkable post-All-Star break campaign. That second half, he had an ERA under 3.00, and allowed only eight home runs in 86 innings pitched.
Of course, Zito has always been a much better second-half pitcher during his career. Lifetime, he owns a 3.63 ERA and a 77-53 record in the latter half of the season.
Oakland Athletics: 2002
At the end of play on August 12, 2002, the Oakland Athletics were in third place in the AL West, 4.5 games out of first place. At the end of play on September 4 that same year, they were 3.5 games in first place. This, all after they rattled off an American League-best 20-game win streak.
The streak saw the A's score 141 runs over the 20-game span, while allowing only 65. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated, the A's trailed in a total of 10 innings out of the 180 that were played during the 20-game stretch.
The streak was capped by a riveting 12-11 victory over the Royals. After the A's squandered an early 11-0 lead, Scott Hatteberg hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to keep the streak alive for one more night.
The A's quickly became the Cinderella story of Major League Baseball that season.They finished the year as the champions of the American League West division, four games ahead of second-place Anaheim.
The A's would eventually lose to the Twins in the ALDS, but the 20-game win streak still stands as the best-ever in the American League, and is the longest win streak in any league since the Chicago Cubs won 21 in a row in 1935.