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The Halves and the Halves Not, Part II
2004-09-09 01:00
by Mike Carminati

Part I


So how precipitous was the Braves second-half turnaround when put in a historical context? Let's take a look at the top 25 or so second-half improvements in baseball history (or at least since 1933) based on winning percentage improvement:

TeamYrDiff 1st W1st L1st PCT1st GB2nd W2nd L2nd PCT2nd GB
Philadelphia Phillies1997.2892461.282324433.5711
St. Louis Browns1935.2791950.275254637.5544.5
Oakland Athletics2001.2684443.506195817.7730
St. Louis Cardinals1940.2602740.403185729.6630
Los Angeles Dodgers1979.2363657.38717.54326.6230
New York Mets1995.2242544.362194431.5872
Detroit Tigers1944.2233642.4628.55224.6840
Atlanta Braves2004.2174542.51713613.7350
Houston Astros2000.2153057.345214233.5602
Brooklyn Dodgers1936.2132450.324224337.5389.5
Boston Red Sox1996.2133649.424164928.6360
Florida Marlins1995.2082443.358194333.5663.5
Oakland Athletics1986.2063456.37815.54230.5830.5
Cleveland Indians1973.2053563.35720.53628.5637
Washington Senators (1901-60)1941.1992647.35621.54536.5568.5
New York Yankees1984.1983646.439205129.6380
Minnesota Twins2003.1944449.4737.54623.6670
Philadelphia Phillies1952.1923540.46717.55227.6580
New York Giants1950.1913440.45910.55228.6500
Chicago White Sox1998.1853551.40715.54531.5920
Toronto Blue Jays2002.1843452.39520.54432.5795
Baltimore Orioles1975.1804144.48284925.6620
Atlanta Braves1993.1785039.56295419.7400
San Francisco Giants1994.1773950.4387.51610.6150
Boston Red Sox1948.1773935.5276.55724.7040
Chicago Cubs1935.1764032.5569.56022.7320
New York Mets2001.1763851.427134429.6030
Chicago White Sox1983.1754037.5193.55926.6940

The 2004 Braves are eighth (stats as of Monday). Surprisingly the last-place 1997 Phils had the greatest percent change in the second half. However, the went from dreadful to pretty good, except that the bad far outweighed the good. The miraculous 2001 A's are the only team ahead of the 2004 Braves to post at least a .500 record in the first half, like the Braves.

Now, let's compare this year's second-half failures to the all-time worst:

TeamYrDiff 1st W1st L1st PCT1st GB2nd W2nd L2nd PCT2nd GB
Philadelphia Athletics1943-.2393444.43611.51561.19737.5
Chicago Cubs1977-.2375435.60702746.37022.5
Minnesota Twins2001-.2325532.63203045.40011
Milwaukee Brewers (1970-97)1975-.2254642.5234.52252.29727
Washington Senators (1901-60)1949-.2253342.440161762.21538.5
Milwaukee Brewers (1998-)2004-.2234541.5238.51535.30023
Cleveland Indians1941-.2214631.5973.52948.37722.5
Detroit Tigers1995-.2183733.52932351.31124
New York Giants1940-.2074028.5885.53252.38124
Chicago White Sox1951-.2074929.62803244.42119
Detroit Tigers1975-.2073947.45310.51855.24730.5
California Angels1983-.2054236.53822856.33330.5
Cincinnati Reds2004-.2014741.5347.51632.33321
New York Mets1991-.1924634.5752.53150.38318
New York Yankees1973-.1875744.56402338.37718.5
Cincinnati Reds1991-.1844436.55053052.36624.5
New York Giants1935-.1844821.69604341.51218
Montreal Expos2000-.1794242.50082553.32122
New York Mets2004-.1794443.50621633.32720
Philadelphia Phillies1995-.1793929.5744.53046.39516.5
Houston Astros1966-.1794540.52982750.35120
San Diego Padres1982-.1745036.58123145.40815
New York Giants1953-.1734337.5386.52747.36528.5
Texas Rangers1983-.1714434.56403351.39325.5
Baltimore Orioles2002-.1694243.494122552.32524.5
Baltimore Orioles1986-.1694641.529102748.36017
New York Giants1938-.1684525.64303842.47511
Boston Red Sox2001-.1675136.5861.53143.41912
Cincinnati Reds1970-.1646226.70504034.5413.5
Boston Red Sox1978-.1625726.68704238.52512.5

I'm sorry, I had to go until the '78 Red Sox. Anyway, we can be proud. The 2004 Reds, Mets, and Brewers all made the list. There still is a most of a month left in the season, but all are good bets to stay there. And the Reds just renewed Dave Miley's contract?!?

Playoff Ch-Ch-Changes

OK, back to the biggest second-half improvement. To put a finer point on the issue, let's just look at teams that made the playoffs:

TeamYrDiff 1st W1st L1st PCT1st GB2nd W2nd L2nd PCT2nd GBTot WTot LTot PCT
Oakland Athletics2001.2684443.506195817.773010260.630
Minnesota Twins2003.1944449.4737.54623.66709072.556
Atlanta Braves1993.1785039.56295419.740010458.642
Chicago Cubs1935.1764032.5569.56022.732010054.649
Chicago White Sox1983.1754037.5193.55926.69409963.611
New York Yankees1995.1743036.45584929.62807965.549
Arizona Diamondbacks1999.1734841.5392.55221.712010062.617
St. Louis Cardinals1942.1714329.5978.56319.768010648.688
New York Yankees1977.1715042.54335020.714010062.617
Atlanta Braves1991.1693940.4949.55528.66309468.580
Kansas City Royals1981.1662030.400123023.56605053.485
St. Louis Cardinals2001.1584343.50085026.65809369.574
St. Louis Cardinals1964.1573940.494105429.65109369.574
Pittsburgh Pirates1974.1544549.4793.54325.63208874.543
New York Giants1951.1514436.55085423.70109859.624
Oakland Athletics2002.1485038.56855321.716010359.636
Toronto Blue Jays1989.1444245.48374728.62708973.549
New York Mets1973.1374251.4527.54028.58808279.509
Brooklyn Dodgers1953.1365031.61705518.753010549.682
New York Yankees1978.1364638.548125425.684010063.613
Pittsburgh Pirates1979.1344639.54145225.67509864.605
Houston Astros1981.1312829.49183320.62306149.555
Houston Astros1986.1284741.53414925.66209666.593
New York Yankees1994.1265035.5880208.71407043.619
Kansas City Royals1977.1265138.5732.55122.699010260.630
San Francisco Giants1987.1224444.50034628.62209072.556
Chicago White Sox1993.1214541.52304927.64509468.580
San Francisco Giants2000.1214639.5413.55126.66209765.599
New York Giants1936.1203934.5346.55328.65409262.597
Montreal Expos1994.1205433.6210207.74107440.649
Chicago White Sox1959.1204335.55125125.67109460.610
Cincinnati Reds1979.1164846.51164225.62709071.559
Florida Marlins2003.1114946.516134225.62709171.562

I extended the list down to the 2003 Marlins to illustrate that they were not all that unique. The 2004 Braves would be second on that list, not too shabby.

Comeback on Your GB

Another way to look at this issue is to evaluate the teams based on the number of games back they were at the half. Here are the teams that overcame the biggest deficits to win a playoff berth (wild cards included):

1st Half GBTeamYrWild Card
19Oakland Athletics2001Y
13Florida Marlins2003Y
11.5New York Yankees1978
11Boston Red Sox1998Y
10St. Louis Cardinals1964
9.5Atlanta Braves1991
9.5Chicago Cubs1935
9Atlanta Braves1993
9Boston Red Sox1988
8.5St. Louis Cardinals1942
8New York Giants1951
8New York Yankees1995Y
8St. Louis Cardinals2001Y
7.5Kansas City Royals1985
7.5Minnesota Twins2003
7.5New York Mets1973
7New York Yankees1997Y
7Toronto Blue Jays1989
6.5Florida Marlins1997Y
6.5New York Giants1936
6Baltimore Orioles1996Y
6Boston Red Sox1967
6Chicago Cubs1938
6Cincinnati Reds1979
5.5Cincinnati Reds1973

Based on this criterion, the Braves second-half surge does not look so unique. They were just a game behind the Phils at the All-Star break. However, the Red Sox were seven back. If they overcome the Yankees, that would represent a pretty successful second-half comeback. By the way, you probably knew that the '78 Yankees would top the list (ignoring wild cards).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Phils and Rangers have both fallen from first to third. Here are the greatest collapses based on how far a team fell in the second half. All of these teams were leading division (or were tied for the division lead) at the break:

TeamYr1st Half PCTYr PCTFinal Position
Chicago White Sox1984.524.4575t
Chicago Cubs1973.531.4785
Montreal Expos1989.563.5004
New York Yankees1973.564.4944
Toronto Blue Jays1983.566.5494
Cincinnati Reds1965.576.5494
Chicago White Sox1967.588.5494
Chicago Cubs1977.607.5004
New York Yankees1987.618.5494
Chicago White Sox1951.628.5264

26 other teams fell into third in the second half, so the Phils and Rangers are in good company.

To be continued…

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