Second-Half All-Stars

Each year, right before the All-Star break, I attempt to make the same point, which is that it’s silly to choose someone as an “All-Star” on the basis of their first half. To me, an All-Star says more than a good 80 games, it’s something a player is whether he’s hitting .220 or .420 when July rolls around.

In addition to that, the logic behind choosing people based on the first half of the season seems faulty to me when you consider that guys who have great second halves don’t get anything. In other words, if someone hits .190 in the first half and .340 in the second half, he’s just some guy who hit .265 on the year. But if he hits .340 in the first half and .190 in the second half, he’s an All-Star. Actually, I believe the technical term for this is “Ken Harvey.”

Plus, great first-half performances get all sorts of hype, while great second-half performances generally get lost in the shuffle, as the numbers just sort of blend into the player’s first-half stats. With all that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the standout performances of the second half to see who would have gotten a whole lot more attention and possibly a trip to the All-Star game, if only they had a little better timing.

Below you’ll find a team for each league made up of the second-half OPS leader at each position and the best starting pitcher (as judged by some combination of innings and ERA) …

AMERICAN LEAGUE
 
POS   PLAYER              AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
C     Jason Varitek      .353     .432     .582    1.014     .340
1B    Carlos Delgado     .302     .398     .644    1.042     .340
2B    Brian Roberts      .327     .395     .451     .846     .291
SS    Miguel Tejada      .296     .352     .530     .882     .291
3B    Melvin Mora        .335     .404     .596    1.000     .331
LF    Carlos Lee         .322     .378     .609     .987     .322
CF    Aaron Rowand       .335     .396     .577     .973     .322
RF    Ichiro!            .440     .467     .548    1.015     .347
 
POS   PLAYER               IP      ERA      SO     BB     OAVG
SP    Johan Santana      85.1     1.27     104     18     .148

Carlos Delgado is a perfect example of why someone’s status as an All-Star shouldn’t change on the basis of half a season. A career .284/.395/.558 hitter coming off a year in which he hit .302/.426/.593 with 42 homers and 145 RBIs, Delgado struggled with injuries and his performance in the first half, hitting just .223/.325/.421.

That was enough to lose his spot on the team, after years of MVP-caliber play, and the aforementioned Ken Harvey, who may go down as one of the worst All-Stars ever, made the AL team at first base. Harvey, whose first-half numbers (.305/.353/.452) weren’t even all that good or that much better than Delgado’s to begin with, has hit .252/.310/.361 in the second half, bringing his overall numbers (.286/.338/.421) into “that’s not bad for a shortstop” territory.

Really, All-Stars are just like beautiful women. Seriously. If Jessica Alba wakes up tomorrow morning and she’s got a big pimple on her nose, she’s still a gorgeous woman, she’s just a gorgeous woman with a big pimple on her nose. Think of Delgado’s first half as that big pimple; he’s still an All-Star, he’s just an All-Star having a poor first half. (And yes, that was just an excuse for me to mention Jessica Alba and link to a picture of her. You’re welcome.)

Meanwhile, Johan Santana is a perfect example of how a great first half is rewarded far more than a great second half. Santana is 11-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 12 second-half starts and 18-6 with a 2.76 ERA on the year, but he didn’t even make the All-Star team. Had he gone anywhere close to 11-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the first half, he’d not only have made the American League team, he would have started the game.

Ichiro!‘s second half has been amazing simply for its uniqueness, but the fact is that while the shape of the production is special, the size of it is really not significantly better than what several AL hitters, Delgado included, have done since the All-Star break.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
 
POS   PLAYER              AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
C     Ramon Hernandez    .295     .352     .530     .882     .291
1B    J.T. Snow          .423     .529     .697    1.226     .412
2B    Mark Loretta       .378     .431     .576    1.007     .338
SS    Khalil Greene      .293     .351     .540     .892     .293
3B    Adrian Beltre      .366     .423     .719    1.142     .370
LF    Barry Bonds        .372     .583     .845    1.428     .474
CF    Jim Edmonds        .369     .484     .827    1.311     .425
RF    Larry Walker       .315     .429     .594    1.023     .342
 
POS   PLAYER               IP      ERA      SO     BB     OAVG
SP    Randy Johnson      94.1     2.39     123     13     .192

No one would be surprised to learn that Barry Bonds has the best second-half OPS in the National League, but you could win some serious bar bets asking people to name the other San Francisco hitter with a second-half OPS over 1.200 (okay, there probably aren’t a lot of bar bets revolving around OPS, but you get my point). I’m not sure what has gotten into J.T. Snow lately, but it has helped the Giants move ahead of the pack to claim the Wild Card lead. Snow, who hit .261/.351/.400 in the first half and hasn’t slugged over .500 in a season since 1997, has hit .423/.529/.697 since the All-Star break to bring his season totals up to .332/.431/.532 in 94 games.

Bonds, of course, laughs at those numbers (he’s at .372/.583/.845 post-break), but Snow does lead the NL in second-half batting average, while ranking second in on-base percentage (behind Bonds) and third in OPS (behind Bonds and Jim Edmonds). Snow has been so good that he actually keeps Albert Pujols, hitting .367/.438/.738 since the break, off the second-half All-Star team at first base.

Speaking of Edmonds, he and Adrian Beltre are competing for the title of “Best Player Not to Make an All-Star Team, 2004,” with J.D. Drew and Melvin Mora right behind them. Edmonds is hitting .317/.429/.683 with 42 homers, 38 doubles and 109 RBIs this season, while playing a quality center field. Beltre is hitting .336/.383/.636 with 45 homers, 27 doubles and 107 RBIs, along with Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. I don’t really have a point here, but somewhere in Kansas City there’s a chubby, light-hitting first baseman having a good laugh.

Randy Johnson has thrown 94.1 innings with a 2.39 ERA since the All-Star break, holding opponents to a .192 batting average, striking out 123 batters, and walking just 13. Because he pitches for a team without any semblance of a major league offense, he has a 4-6 record for his troubles. As always, the next time someone tries to use only a pitcher’s won-loss record to argue how good or bad they are, go ahead and punch them in the face. Hard.

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