10 players who thrive this time of year

July 17th, 2020

With the regular season set to open July 23, the entire 2020 campaign will be played in what would, in a normal season of 162 games, be the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule. So we wondered, who are some players who have historically been great in the second half of the season, particularly relative to their overall performance? While there's no scientific basis to all of this -- past performance doesn't guarantee future results -- it's still a fun exercise as we get ready for the regular season to finally return.

So here's a look at five position players and five pitchers who have traditionally done very well over the final two-plus months of the season, or, in this case, the portion of the season that will constitute the full schedule in 2020.

Josh Donaldson, Twins
Key stat: 50 career home runs in August (180 games)
Donaldson likes the month of August ... a lot. The former American League MVP and three-time All-Star has slugged .596 and hit nearly a quarter of all his home runs in that month, and in the second half overall, his career OPS is 66 points higher than pre-All-Star-break, at .914. Last year was no exception, with Donaldson posting a .958 OPS in the second half, 104 points higher than his first-half OPS. Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli has the pleasure of penciling Donaldson's name into the middle of a lineup that set the single-season team home run record last year, with 307. Bomba Squad, indeed.

Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Key stat: .874 second-half OPS

Schwarber showed last season why this time of year is his time -- in 85 games before the All-Star break, he hit .227/.320/.457, and after the break, his OPS was more than 200 points higher, at .997 with 20 homers in 60 games. Overall in his career, his second-half OPS of .874 is nearly 100 points higher than his first-half OPS of .787. Schwarber has generally taken that late-season success right into the postseason, where he is a career .306 hitter with six home runs in 22 games.

José Abreu, White Sox
Key stat: .898 second-half OPS
The biggest difference between first-half Abreu and second-half Abreu so far in his career has been his on-base percentage -- it's 42 points higher after the All-Star break, from .331 to .373. The month of August has been, by far, his best month, one in which he has a .973 OPS with 35 home runs in 159 games. Case in point: Last August, after a dismal July at the plate, Abreu hit .356/.409/.593 with six homers.

Trea Turner, Nationals
Key stat: .499 second-half slugging percentage
Turner isn't considered a big slugger, but traditionally, when he does slug, it happens in the second half of the season, when his slugging percentage is nearly 70 points higher than it is before the All-Star break. The later it gets for Turner, the better; his best month over his young career has been September (including October regular-season games), in which he has slugged .519 with an .885 OPS.

Jorge Soler, Royals
Key stat: Career 1.011 OPS in August
Soler finally had a fully-healthy season last year -- he played in all 162 games for Kansas City, in fact -- and it was a breakout campaign that featured an AL-leading 48 home runs, which is also a single-season franchise record. Soler's favorite month at the plate is August, in which he has hit .305/.401/.610 with 20 homers in 71 games. Overall, Soler has been much better after the All-Star break; his second-half OPS (.923) is 174 points higher than his first-half OPS. He's also hit exactly 43 career homers in the first half of the season, as well as 43 in the second half, but in 105 fewer games.

Blake Snell, Rays
Key stat: 2.70 second-half ERA
We've all seen what Snell can do when he's at his best. In a Cy Young Award campaign in 2018, the left-hander finished the season with a 1.89 ERA over 31 starts for the Rays. But even in that stellar year, Snell's second-half ERA was more than a full run lower than his pre-All-Star-break mark, at 1.17 in 11 starts. The same holds true for his career numbers -- he has a 3.63 ERA in the first half, and a 2.70 mark in starts after the All-Star break.

Marcus Stroman, Mets
Key stat: 2.96 ERA in September/October
If it's the final month of the season, you can count on Stroman to be at his best. And overall, Stroman's 3.33 ERA over 67 appearances (66 starts) in the second half of the season stands in stark contrast to a 4.14 mark in 79 appearances (74 starts) prior to the All-Star break. The right-hander looks to keep finishing strong -- or in this season's case, starting strong -- for the Mets after coming to New York from Toronto via trade last July, especially if a postseason berth is on the line.

Mike Clevinger, Indians
Key stat: 29 percent strikeout rate in second half
Clevinger only made five starts before the All-Star break last season, posting a 4.44 ERA before pitching to a 2.30 mark over 16 second-half starts for the Tribe. In 2018, his last full season, he was better in the first half, but his second-half ERA of 2.31 was more than a run lower in 13 starts. Over his four-season career, Clevinger's second-half ERA of 2.75 is just over a run below his 3.76 mark in pre-All-Star-break outings.

Zack Wheeler, Phillies
Key stat: 2.58 ERA in 23 career August starts
Finally healthy the past two seasons after having Tommy John surgery in 2015, Wheeler was a solid starter in the Mets' rotation before signing as a free agent with the Phillies in the offseason. His ERA (2.90 in 50 starts) is a run and a half lower in the second half of the season than it is in the first. The difference was even more stark in 2019, when the right-hander posted a 4.69 ERA in 19 first-half starts before turning in a 2.83 mark over a dozen starts after the All-Star break.

Jack Flaherty, Cardinals
Key stat: 0.91 ERA after All-Star break in 2019
This one's a little tricky because we've only seen Flaherty in the Majors since 2017. But it's hard to leave a guy off a list like this even if he has a short track record when that record includes a 0.91 ERA in 15 second-half starts last year. The young right-hander struck out 34 percent of batters he faced after the All-Star break, and he didn't allow a single run over the final 19 2/3 innings he pitched in the regular season.