Top 20 second half flops: Nos. 10-1by Bryan Donovan
August 24, 2009
To read part 1, with a full introduction and more on the methodology, click here.
No. 10: 1974 and 1975 Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox
1974 first half: .331/.431/.502, 11 HRs, 54 RBIs
1974 second half: .253/.387/.354, 4 HRs, 25 RBIs
1975 first half: .313/.413/.482, 10 HRs, 40 RBIs
1975 second half: .212/.314/.305, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs
This is where the pain starts for me, personally, as a Red Sox fan. Yaz was 34 in 1974 and while still a decent offensive force he was no longer the Triple Crown winning stud of 1967. Despite this natural, yet painful fact the Red Sox chose to put absolutely no one around him in 1974. His totals of .301/.414/.445, 15 HRs, 25 2Bs, 79 RBIs, 93 runs led the team in all categories, often by significant margins. On August 29 the team stood at 72-57, five games clear of the Orioles. They proceeded to lose eight straight games in which they scored a total of 13 runs, getting shut out in four of the last five games and found themselves 1.5 games down. Yaz pressed like mad and with no one else in the lineup, teams pitched around him like crazy. He turned in a bizarre .143/.419/.421 during the fiasco. The Sox would go 12-13 from there to finish the season well behind the Orioles.
In 1975 the addition of Jim Rice and Fred Lynn as well as the return to health of Carlton Fisk (all of whom had very good to terrific second halves along with Dwight Evans) overcame the downturn of Yaz. I was tempted to mention Bernie Carbo’s 1975 along the way as he went from .271/.425/.557 14 HRs, 42 RBIs to .224/.372/.316, 1 HR, 8 RBIs but he battled second-half injuries along with reduced playing time to give Rice at-bats. Also, Bernie hit one of the greatest clutch home runs in World Series history in Game 6 so he gets a bit of a pass.
No. 9: 1970 Bill Grabarkewitz, Los Angeles Dodgers
First half: .341/.445/.498, 9 HRs, 50 RBIs
Second half: .232/.346/.404, 8 HRs, 34 RBIs
Grabarkewitz who? Exactly. He was an infielder (mostly third base) for the Dodgers who had come up in ’69 for a bit but settled into a starting role the next year. While the Dodgers were 51-35 at the break they were already 10 games out. Grabarkewitz was sensational. He ranked fourth and fifth respectively in batting average (behind Rico Carty, Tony Perez and Roberto Clemente no less) and on-base percentage.
It must have been something to witness. His BABIP was a nearly inhuman .470! There was clearly no place to go but down. Little did anyone know that down was an abyss. The Dodgers finished up 36-39 and while the lack of the surprise first-half production from the All-Star Grabarkewitz no doubt cost them some games, they finished well back in the pack. Even if he had repeated his first-half performance it would have made little difference. So aside from the large drop off why does he warrant inclusion into this list? This is the rest of Grabarkewitz’ career numbers between 1971-1974 (he had two at-bats in 1975): .203/.326/.307, 11HRs, 52 RBIs (567 at-bats).
He kicked around for the Angels, Phillies, Cubs and A’s never finding anything close to the massive success he had during the first half of 1970. In the 40 years I studied I never found anything even close to the riches-to-rags saga of Bill Grabarkewitz.
No. 8: 2007 Gary Sheffield, Detroit Tigers
First half: .303/.410/.560, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs
Second half: .203/.324/.299, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs
The Tigers brought in Sheffield to be the offensive core to a team that would ultimately rank second, third and second in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. While begrudgingly serving as the designated hitter, Sheff put up fairly familiar numbers in the first half and the Tigers entered the break 52-34, up one game in the AL Central. At the mid-point of August the Tigers still clung to a half-game lead. However, in mid-July Sheff had already started to slide. Over the last nine games of July and first 10 games of August the Tigers would go 6-13 scoring three runs or fewer in nine of the losses. Sheff contributed only .167/.256/.222 with one home run and six RBIs during the slump.
Starting on the 17th over the next four games Sheffield would go .200/.250/.267, the Tigers would score eight runs and go 1-3 falling to 1.5 games out. Sheffield would miss the next 14 games when the Tigers went 6-8. Upon his return the Tigers were virtually out of it at seven down with 23 games to go. Sheffield, re-installed to his customary no. 3 spot in the lineup, had nothing left to give going .172/.346/.234 with one home run and four RBIs in those games as the Tigers finished eight games out.
No. 7: 1992 Kent Hrbek, Minnesota Twins
First half: .294/.411/.489, 10 HRs, 41 RBIs
Second half: .172/.277/.294, 5 HRs, 17 RBIs
Along with Kirby Puckett, Hrbek was the leader of a very talented Minnesota Twins team. Featuring a solid if not spectacular rotation centered around John Smiley, Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson all of whom through over 210 innings with ERAs under 4.00 and a bullpen that had only one person with more than 45 IP that had an ERA over 3.00 the Twins played, well, Twins-style baseball. They led the league in batting average and on-base percentage but didn’t hit a ton of home runs.
Hrbek started the year on the DL, missing the first 15 games in which the Twins started 6-9 and were already 4.5 games back. They went 47-25 the rest of the way to the break with Hrbek providing clutch hitting. They would be up two at the All-Star game. They would go 7-4 out of the break and be up three on July 27. The wheels would come off Hrbek and the Twins at that point. They were swept at home by the A’s in a three-game set leveling the division. Including those three games the Twins would go 15-24 to September 6 and drop to 5.5 back. During this stretch Hrbek’s bat would fail him completely. He hit a paltry .177/.290/.306 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 39 games. He would go on the DL for the rest of the season on September 7 and the Twins would never get closer, finishing six games back of the A’s.
No. 6: 2006 Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
First half: .358/.426/.578, 11 HRs, 53 RBIs
Second half: .229/.286/.408, 9 HRs, 40 RBIs
This was one streaky baseball team. It seemed that Nomar had rebounded from his unceremonious departure from the Red Sox in 2004 and a severe injury in 2005 to find that line drive-producing stroke once again. The Dodgers were 46-42 at the break, two games out and Nomar was voted to his last All-Star team (well, presumably anyway). Nomar was third in MLB in batting average (first in the National League), and despite his penchant for not taking pitches, he was 10th overall in on-base percentage. Coming out of the break the Dodgers got off to a 1-10 start. Nomar went .136/.208/.273 with one home run and four RBIs. The Dodgers scored 18 total runs and failed to score more than two runs in nine of the games. Nomar went on the DL on July 25 with the Dodgers out 6.5 games.
They went 10-1 in his absence. He returned and his re-insertion into the no. 3 hole in the lineup did nothing to distract the team, and they stayed hot going on another 7-1 streak to get within half a game. Over the rest of the year the Dodgers would consecutively go 2-6, 7-0, 6-11 and then 9-1 to finish the season and tie the Giants for NL West and grab the Wild Card spot. They would be swept by the Mets in three games with Nomar hitting .222/.222/.333.
No. 5: 2002 Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds
.300/.452/.544, 17 HRs, 54 RBIs
.190/.339/.353, 9 HRs, 17 RBIs
Imagine Adam Dunn as not only a 40 HR, .400+ OBP guy but also a .300 hitter and a .450+ OBP guy. Yikes. Well, that’s how Dunn started the 2002 campaign. In 2001 Dunn had come up for the second half of the season and had gone an impressive .262/.371/.578 with 19 home runs and 43 RBIs in just 66 games. He was off to a hot start in ’02 and, while still striking out 100 times by the break, he clearly had a good eye, excellent power and was a run producer. The Reds were 46-41 and two games out at the break. Cinci slumped out of the break, finishing 9-10 in the rest of July but still just five back. Dunn’s production slowed but he still was at a respectable .258/.427/.532 with four home runs and eight RBIs during this stretch. Both the Reds and Dunn would disappear in August and, shockingly, even more so in September. The Reds stalled to an 11-18 August dropping out of the race 10 games back. Dunn would screech to a .160/.305/.283, three home run, six RBI month.
They would play out the string in September, going, 12-15 while Dunn absolutely blew up hitting .179/.310/.274 with one home run and three RBIs. In the second half of the year Dunn only drove in seven runs that were not by a home run and he had only one multi-RBI game (he drove in two with a HR). There is an element of unfairness in expecting essentially a rookie to man the no. 3 and no. 4 spot for a playoff drive in the dog days of August. However, Dunn’s complete reversal from earlier in the year and utter lack of production from two key run-producing spots sends him high up on this list.
No. 4: 2003 Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
First half: .352/.390/.476, 8 HRs, 28 RBIs, 25 SBs
Second half: .259/.301/.383, 5 HRs, 34 RBIs, 9 SBs
For two-and-a-half years Ichiro had been an oddly dominant hitter in MLB since coming over from Japan. His unique style, running swing and speed made him a high average hitter, and he charged the Mariners lineup starting in 2001. At the break the Mariners were riding high atop the AL West at 58-35, four games clear of the field. Ichiro was doing his thing, second in MLB in hitting and leading the AL in both hitting and steals. Despite playing up and down ball out of the break the M’s actually increased their lead to five games by August 15. However, over the next 12 games they would go 3-9, with Ichiro barely noticeable going .146/.180/.167 with no RBIs. In six of the losses the M’s scored three runs or fewer with their leadoff hitter seldom on base.
They stood two games back at the end of the stretch and never recovered. They would go 13-12 in September including three meaningless wins on the last three games of the year against the division-winning A’s who had wrapped up the title days beforehand. Ichiro recovered a bit to hit .273/.298/.427 for the month, far below what even an average leadoff hitter should produce let alone someone of his caliber.
No. 3: 2001 Carl Everett and Dante Bichette, Boston Red Sox
Everett first half: .284/.344/.472, 9 HRs, 42 RBIs
Everett second half: .197/.277/.362, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs
Bichette first half: .333/.372/.559, 8 HRs, 33 RBIs
Bichette second half: .230/.269/.333, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs
There were plenty of problems, ultimately, with the 2001 Red Sox. Pedro went down, Nomar didn’t deal with his wrist in the offseason, Derek Lowe blew up in the bullpen, Jason Varitek was injured, Manny AND Jurassic Carl on the same team and so on. Backing up into the preseason though the air in New England was full of high hopes.
Manny Ramirez was added to the lineup to create as dynamic a run-scoring team as there was in baseball, Pedro was 60-17 since arriving in Boston and was the best pitcher maybe ever, Nomar was Nomar, additions of Nomo, Cone and Castillo had been made to a less-than-stellar 2000 rotation, Lowe had become a stud closer and presumably they had figured out Carl Everett. Sigh.
The Sox ran out to a 51-36 record at the break despite the lack of Nomar. And while they were back one-and-a-half games they had been up as much as four and had traded leads with the Yankees through most of the spring. The mid-June loss of Pedro who had been devastating in April and May was concerning to say the least, but the word was that he would be back for a good part of the second half (this turned out not to be the case). Bichette started the year as a bench player and pinch hitter, but by late May he had become the full-time designated hitter. From May 28 to July 4 he led the Sox to a 22-13 streak by hitting .411/.437/.750 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs.
Out of the break the Red Sox began a slow collapse, finishing the month 9-10. Everett was out most of the month coming back for only the last three games batting .000 for them. During the 19-game July stretch Bichette’s 38-year-old body began to show its age as he went .214/.254/.304. However, the previously sizzling Yankees cooled off and the Sox lingered just three-and-a-half games out on August 1. From the time Everett returned on July 28 until his last game on September 8 the Sox would go 7-18 including a three-game homestand sweep at the hand of the Yankees by the scores of 3-1, 2-1 and 1-0. The two hitters would combine to go 3-20 in those three games. For the 25-game slump Everett’s above numbers were his entire second half while Bichette struggled through a .248/.278/.322/1HR/6RBI skid. They would be 12 games out at that point and would ultimately finish 82-79, 13 games out only through the grace of winning their last five meaningless games at the end of the year.
Everett gets special consideration for his collapse despite playing in just the 25 games in the second half. On August 14, in a 6-3 loss to the Mariners, Everett hit a fifth inning home run off Jamie Moyer. While crossing the plate Everett appeared to spit and grab his crotch in a gesture toward Moyer who had hit him with a pitch earlier in the game. A complete circus ensued within Boston, baseball, baseball fans and the baseball media. Should Everett be suspended? What sort of punishment or suspension should he be given? No doubt the slumping members of the 2001 Red Sox punched their ticket mentally while this Everett-created whirlwind swirled around them.
It is easy to look back and see that this was a tragically flawed team from the get go. Jimy Williams was not going to manage a club structured the way the Sox were to any sort of championship run. Cone, Castillo and Nomo were average at best, Nomar’s wrist never healed properly, Pedro was untouchable and then went down and never really returned, Lowe was horrible as the closer, and they had to rely heavily on the likes of Dante Bichette, Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman and Scott Hatteberg.
Yet, the resounding image of this team is the full-on August implosion that the team went through. The poster child for that is Carl Everett. Dante Bichette is likely tarred unfairly here. This was the last year of his career. He was not expected to be a 150-game guy, and he simply wore down physically and likely mentally as he watched everything go wrong that could possibly go wrong.
Np. 2: 2000 Carl Everett, Boston Red Sox
First half: .329/.403/.647, 24 HRs, 69 RBIs
Second half: .261/.329/.502, 10 HRs, 39 RBIs
Before there was 2001 Carl Everett there was 2000 Carl Everett. He was signed away from the Houston Astros in the offseason. The signing was universally heralded as a tremendous acquisition. The Sox were getting a 29-year-old left-handed multi-tool athletic center fielder who had just come off a career year where he hit .325/.398/.571 with 25 home runs and 108 RBIs. The Sox had three very good left-handed-hitting outfielders in their prime, a remarkable shortstop, a terrific catcher and Pedro. This was old-school Red Sox mentality at work. The Sox had been 94-68 and had been to the ALCS in 1999. Now they were even better offensively. This was their season.
Everett answered the bell immediately. In April he went .358/.400/.704 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs as the Red Sox went 12-9. In May he kept it up going .295/.389/.654 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs. The Sox went 17-10 and moved into first place. Carl Everett was the best player in the American League and chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP” rang down out of Fenway for him. He did not let up in June, hitting .333/.409/.635 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. However, the last 13 games of the month saw the Red Sox pitching go south, and they went 3-10 when the staff could hold opposing teams under five runs only three times. They were 38-37 at the end of June, three-and-a-half games out. They went 5-4 in July entering the break. In the five wins they outscored their opponents 51-29; in the four losses they were outscored 25-8. Everett did his part hitting .324/.425/.529 in those games.
On July 15 Everett bumped home plate umpire Ron Kulpa twice and was eventually suspended for 10 games. In the games prior to serving his suspension he appeared distracted by the hullabaloo he had created hitting .227/.379/.636. He served the suspension from July 23 to August 4. The Sox were one down on the 23rd, went 5-5 in his absence and found themselves three-and-a-half down on the August 5. The Sox would struggle to a 13-12 record the rest of August. Everett had now completely lost his focus, and the center point of the Red Sox offense bogged down to a .275/.333/.529, though he did hit six home runs and drive in 23. Five back on September 1, the Sox limped to a 16-15 record and Everett mostly disappeared, hitting .270/.321/.473 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. They would finish 85-77, a deceiving two-and-a-half games back of the Yankees who made things closer than they appeared by going 3-15 over the final 18 games of the season.
No. 1: 1979 Roy Smalley, Jr., Minnesota Twins
First half: .341/.424/.535, 15 HRs, 65 RBIs
Second half: .185/.262/.327, 9 HRs, 30 RBIs
From a purely statistical point of view this is the greatest individual fall I could find. It also does not seem to be based upon any injuries as Smalley played in all 162 games and led the league in plate appearances. He just simply fell off the side of the statistical cliff. The Twins weren’t a great team, but they had decent pitching in 20-game winner Jerry Koosman, solid innings eaterDave Goltz, and veteran Mike Marshall in the pen. Smalley was their no. 2 and no. 3 hitter. Through May 22 the Twins were 22-8, and Smalley was hitting a ludicrous .396/.469/.623 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs.
While this is all perfectly normal for the shortstops of the late 20th and into the 21st century, this performance was virtually uncharted territory for shortstops of this era. He was putting up Jim Rice-style numbers while playing Mark Belanger’s position! It simply wasn’t done back then. To give some perspective on this, consider the other six regular starting shortstops in the AL West in 1979. They combined to hit seven home runs all year! In the AL East the seven regular starting shortstops hit a combined 36 home runs.
Even cooling off to the All-Star break, he was still hot and the Twins were 48-41 and five back. Out of the break the Twins went 5-1, scoring 47 runs to close within two games. Smalley was as hot as ever hitting .400/.423/.680 with two home runs and four RBIs in the stretch. They would experience a drastic downturn for the rest of July, going 2-6 and scoring only 14 runs. Smalley would enter the deep freeze from which he would never return, going .103/.133/.209. On September 1 they stood at 69-64 still just two games back of the California Angels. Smalley would completely disappear in September, hitting an astonishing .145/.229/.248 as the Twins went 13-16, scoring only 121 runs and being shut out four times.
They would finish in fourth place, six games back. I have no knowledge as to whether he was hurt or just completely discombobulated. There is no other season in the Divisional Era where one player has gone from one of the top three first-half MVP candidates and amongst the league leaders in virtually every offensive statistical category to nearly the worst hitter in baseball. At the break Smalley was fourth in the majors in batting average behind Charlie Moore, Rod Carew and Brian Downing. He was fourth in on-base percentage behind Carew, Downing and Darrel Porter. After the break he was 268th and 261st respectively (out of 273 players with 100 plate appearances). The drop was almost unbelievable. Smalley would turn in several more solid years after this, but he never again experienced the scorching stretch of baseball he had going for three solid months.
In conclusion, it is clear that there have been some pretty amazing dropoffs in the second halves of numerous MLB seasons. Some are historic, some individual and some, no doubt, cost their teams dearly. I think it is difficult to conclude that any one of these players cost their teams a shot at the playoffs or a better position going into the playoffs merely because they were not the same from a statistical standpoint in the second half as they were in the first half. However, I found it interesting, educational and in some cases quite memorable to remember certain teams and players and how things went back in the day.