Once there was a season when Eddie Murray, a future Hall of Famer, was having a tough first half for Baltimore -- and Orioles manager Earl Weaver was delighted.
“That just means he’s going to have a great second half,” Weaver said.
The longtime O's skipper knew that regardless of what Murray’s numbers were on June 1 or July 1, by the end of the season his stats would always wind up in about the same place.
Murray averaged 29 home runs, 30 doubles and 103 RBIs in his first nine seasons, demonstrating a striking consistency.
Let that be a guide for how we’re probably going to look back at this season for some of the game’s most established players who did not have their best first half, but have cranked things up to another level since the All-Star break. Look at what these 11 players have done before and after the break (statistics through Thursday’s games):
1) Jose Ramirez, Indians 3B
Before (85 games): .218 BA, .652 OPS, 7 HR
After (39 games): .329 BA, 1.076 OPS, 13 HR
Just when we were ready to write off both Ramirez and the Indians, both got going at about the same time. Do not underestimate either in October.
2) Jose Altuve, Astros 2B
Before (55 games): .262 BA, .781 OPS
After (38 games): .344 BA, 1.053 OPS
Altuve’s going to look back and see that six weeks on the injured list turned his season around. Altuve was hitting .243 when he was sidelined on May 10. He used the time off both to heal his hamstring and further strengthen the muscles around his surgically repaired right knee. Now, he once again looks like the three-time batting champ he is.
3) Jack Flaherty, Cardinals RHP
Before (18 starts): 4.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
After (7 starts): 0.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
The Cardinals have long projected him to be a staff ace, and that’s exactly what he has been in the last few weeks by going deep into games and displaying a repertoire as impressive as any in the game.
4) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers LHP
Before (15 starts): 3.09 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
After (7 starts): 1.84 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Do not doubt the great ones because they almost always figure things out. Kershaw has showed again in recent weeks why he’s headed for Cooperstown, as he has figured out how to navigate games with less velocity and more savvy.
5) Yuli Gurriel, Astros 1B
Before (82 games): .277 BA, .796 OPS, 14 HR
After (37 games): .363 BA, 1.083 OPS, 11 HR
Gurriel credits a conversation with former teammate Carlos Beltran for a mechanical adjustment he’s made at the plate that has allowed him to see the ball better out of a pitcher’s hand. Regardless of how he has done it, he has made one of baseball’s deepest lineups even better.
6) Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals 1B
Before (88 games): .254 BA, .769 OPS, 16 HR
After (38 games): .268 BA, .871 OPS, 12 HR
At just about the time that some Cardinals fans were wondering if Goldschmidt would ever become the player they thought he would be in St. Louis, he revved up. Now, he has a shot at a 20-double, 40-homer season, with the potential to lead the Cardinals back to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
7) Sonny Gray, Reds RHP
Before (17 starts): 3.59 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
After (8 starts): 1.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
A 23-inning scoreless streak has highlight a second half in which Gray has attacked the strike zone while keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate. He’s a big reason why the Reds are optimistic that they’re close to turning a major corner.
8) Shane Bieber, Indians RHP
Before (18 starts): 3.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
After (8 starts): 2.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
He was solid before the break, but he has been superb for one of baseball’s hottest teams since he was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. Bieber credits consistency and confidence in staying the course.
9) Amed Rosario, Mets SS
Before (87 games): .260 BA, .713 OPS, 9 HR
After (36 games): .362 BA, .929 OPS, 3 HR
He’s 23 years old, and like every other young player, has needed some time to go through the success/fail/adjust period that is part of normal growth. The Mets have thought for a while he would be a special player. Now, they’re seeing it.
10) Madison Bumgarner, Giants LHP
Before (19 starts): 4.03 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
After (8 starts): 3.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP
Seems like we’ve written this guy off about six times over the last couple of seasons. Reports of his demise were greatest exaggerated in the first half, since far more contenders were attempting to acquire him than was the popular notion. He’s showing all of them why as he heads toward likely free agency.
11) Bryce Harper, Phillies RF
Before (90 games): .253 BA, .839 OPS, 16 HR
After (35 games): .256 BA, .948 OPS, 11 HR
Harper showed flashes of greatness in the first half. He also looked overanxious at times, which would be natural given the expectations that accompanied him to Philadelphia. He’s gradually settling in, and the Phillies are going to end up being extremely happy they signed him.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.