It is often said that the Major League season is a marathon, not a sprint. But with the All-Star Game now in the rearview and the postseason battles flaring up, everything takes a different pace. And there are some players who also elevate their game.
Dozens of baseball players throughout baseball history have basically loaded their teams through October, thanks to exceptional performances in the second half. Here are 11 of the players with the most notable numbers after the All-Star Game, since the first Midseason Classic in 1933.
Jack Flaherty, LA, Cardinals, 2019
After finishing the first half with a 4.64 ERA, Flaherty had 0.91 after the All-Star Game that season, while opponents’ OPS went from .744 to .424. The opponents’ batting average of .142 and the WHIP of 0.71 during the second half are both the second-best in American League and National League history. The Cardinals took advantage of that push and won the NL Central.
Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers, 2018
Yelich had a solid first half (average of .292 and OPS of .823), but became MVP of the National in the second part of the season, when he had average of .367 and OPS of 1,219. Yelich hit 25 home runs after the break, five of them during an eight-game win streak to close the year that catapulted the Brewers above the Cubs to win the Central Division.
Jake Arrieta, LA, Cubs, 2015
In the history of the game, no one has had a better ERA (0.75) or limited opponents to a lower OPS (.431) in the second half than Arrieta. The right-hander allowed two earned runs in nine starts to close the regular season and just two home runs in 107.1 innings. He pitched a no-hitter game with 12 strikeouts on Aug. 30 against the Dodgers and won the NL Cy Young Award.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers, 2008
All in all, Ramírez’s second half in 2008 looks fantastic. He posted a .388 / .485 / .723 line with 61 RBIs in 63 games. But the magic didn’t begin until July 31, when the Dominican was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, who were 54-54 and 2.0 games above the NL West. Ramirez quickly turned Los Angeles into “Mannywood,” landing two or more hits in each of his first five meetings with the Blues. In his last 53 games of the regular season, Ramirez had a 1,232 OPS and carried the offense for the Dodgers, who went 16-8 in September and won the division.
Johan Santana, LZ, Twins, 2004
Say what you want about the value of pitchers’ wins as a statistic, but when someone is 13-0 over a span of 15 starts, you have to pay close attention. That’s what Santana achieved after the 2004 All-Star Game. His second half ERA (1.21), WHIP (0.75), opponents’ average (.155) and OPS (.443) are all among the best. 10 marks in the history of the American and National Leagues. And look what he did in a stretch of four starts between Sept. 3-19: Thirty-nine innings, zero runs, two walks, and 41 strikeouts. Santana won the first of his two Cy Young Awards that year, and his work helped the Twins beat the White Sox in the battle for the AL Central.
Barry Bonds, OF, Giants, 2002
It’s frankly hard to understand what Bonds did in the second half of 2002. For example, his on-base percentage after the break was .608, the best in LA / LN history. And no one since has surpassed his OPS of. 1432 nor his wRC + of 256. That OPS was about the same as the one he had during the second half of 2001, when he broke the record for home runs in a season. Bonds won his first batting title and fifth MVP award before leading the Giants to the 2002 World Series.
Albert Belle, OF, Indians, 1995
In the second half of that shortened season, which finished the slugger with 50 home runs and 126 RBIs, Belle’s best came in the second half. His performance included 17 homers in September and 61 extra-base hits after the All-Star Game, a record, plus 36 homers (second). From his hand, the Tribe advanced to the Fall Classic, where they fell against the Braves.
George Brett, 3B, Royals, 1980
After a ligament injury in one foot, Brett returned to action on July 10, the first day of the second half of the season. Over the next 46 games, he hit .470 and brought his season average to .407 after hitting five hits on Aug. 26. Although the AL MVP in 1980 ended up falling short in its quest for the .400 mark, his second-half line is still marvelous: .421 / .482 / .696. The big year closed with a trip to the World Series (loss to the Phillies).
Sandy Koufax, LA, Dodgers, 1965
Koufax struck out 187 batters during the second half of 1965, the most in LA / LN history. His 0.77 WHIP and .460 OPS rank among the top 10 marks of all time. He pitched four shutouts during his last eight starts, led by his perfect game against the Cubs on Sept. 9. And in his last three outings, he allowed a single hairline in 27 acts with 38 strikeouts, all while battling chronic arm pain. The Dodgers won the World Series that year.
Lou Brock, OF, Cardinals, 1964
The move to acquire Brock in 1964 paid dividends very quickly for the Cardinals. When Brock came to St. Louis from the Cubs, the Red Birds were two games under .500 and eighth in the National League. Brock hit .348 the rest of the year and had 118 hits in the second half. The Cardinals ended up winning the NL pennant and defeating the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Joe DiMaggio, OF, Yankees, 1937
The Yankee Clipper scored the most runs (89) and reached the most bases (248) after the All-Star Game in LA / LN history.In addition, he ranks third in most extra-base hits (59) in the second half. and he’s tied for third in RBIs (99).