5 players outperforming their first-half selves

October 1st, 2022

It happens every year: Star hitters get off to a slow start, and it seems like they're in for a lost season.

A three-week slump in July might not draw a ton of attention, but early in the schedule, it stands out in a big way. The 2022 season was no exception, but April and May aren't always the final word.

Here’s a look at five hitters who seemed lost in the spring, but turned their 2022 seasons around in the second half.

All stats are entering Friday's games.

, SS, Blue Jays

After leading the AL with 191 hits and popping 29 home runs in 2021, Bichette looked like he was due for even bigger things at just age 24 this season. April had other ideas. Bichette hit .213 with only four extra-base hits (two home runs) in 22 games during baseball's opening month.

His numbers didn’t quite recover through the All-Star Break (105 wRC+ and a .257 average), but there were signs that Bichette might have been a bit unlucky. The right-hand hitter’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) sat at .313, which would have been a career low. He was also hitting the ball harder than ever. Bichette’s 48.6% hard-hit rate would have been the highest full-season rate of his career.

Bichette’s luck has evened out since then. He's been among the very best hitters in baseball since the break. His 161 wRC+ is tied for ninth with Alex Bregman among qualified hitters since July 19. Only five qualified hitters have bested Bichette’s .329 batting average since then. He’s also been the best hitter on the Blue Jays, who have had one of the best offenses in baseball over that period and just locked up an AL Wild Card spot on Thursday.

Overall, Bichette is up to 24 home runs and a .799 OPS, which is actually his best season relative to league average since his rookie season in 2019. The 24-year-old shortstop had a rough go of it early on, but it seems like he’ll be right on track when the season is set and done.

, 3B/DH, Dodgers

Turner’s career has always been an anomaly. After bouncing around as a light-hitting utility infielder through his first five seasons, Turner exploded onto the scene with the Dodgers in 2014, hitting .340 over 109 games. He’s consistently been one of the better hitters in baseball ever since.

But at 37 years old, it might not have been a shock that Turner came out of the gates cold this season. The Dodgers' red-haired third baseman hit just one home run during April and wasn't exactly crushing at the All-Star break, slashing .256/.330/.403 at the time.

But post-All-Star break, he's been otherworldly. Turner's 161 wRC+ is tied for the 11th-best with the aforementioned Bichette and Bregman among those with at least 150 plate appearances since the break.

Turner’s Statcast metrics don’t look incredibly different pre- and post-All-Star break. Really, he’s just improved across the board, more or less. Turner is hitting more fly balls and line drives. He’s improved upon his barrel, hard-hit and sweet-spot rates, all while striking out less and walking more.

Incredibly, Turner has the seventh-highest sweet-spot rate among qualified hitters this season -- even after his dreadful start. His 126 wRC+ is identical to last season's, which would have seemed nearly impossible just a few months ago. Now that $16 million club option the Dodgers hold on him for 2023 is looking a lot more appealing.

, 1B, Phillies

April and May were a disaster for the Phillies, and their first baseman wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Hoskins slashed .222/.303/.405 with just eight home runs while the Phillies struggled to a 21-29 record through those first two months.

But once June hit, Hoskins became a different player. The right-hand hitter posted a 1.026 OPS (8th-best among qualifiers) and seven home runs on the month while contending for the NL Player of the Month award with teammate and eventual winner Kyle Schwarber. The Phillies enjoyed their best month at the same time, going 18-10 and getting back into the NL playoff race.

He's now hitting .251 with 29 home runs and a 126 wRC+, which looks a lot like his strong 2021 season. It may be sheer coincidence, but Hoskins’ season took off right when he became the everyday No. 2 hitter in the Phillies lineup.

Now, the Phillies are firmly in the playoff chase, looking to nail down an NL Wild Card berth. Hoskins has reestablished himself as the hitter Philadelphians have come to love over the past six seasons – a consistently solid power hitter who can hit in the first half of any lineup in baseball.

, C, Phillies

Hoskins isn’t the only Phillie who has enjoyed a resurgent second half. Realmuto posted a modest .722 OPS before the All-Star break – not terrible, especially for a catcher, but that would be his lowest full-season total since 2015. He didn’t have a single month above 100 wRC+ (league average) until July.

But boy, was that July impressive. Realmuto hit .358 and posted a 1.065 OPS (ninth-highest among those with at least 60 plate appearances) on the month, leading the Phillies to a 15-10 record. That hot streak has continued later into the season. Realmuto has a .937 OPS during the second half.

His batted ball direction, whiffs and walks have looked more or less the same all season. Realmuto is simply hitting the ball much harder than he was during the first few months. He’s upped his barrel rate (7.2% to 16.7%) (and hard-hit rate (43.2% to 53.2%) significantly post-All-Star break.

The Phillies' season turned around right when their catcher took off. There’s a real argument for Realmuto, who on Friday became just the second catcher in AL/NL history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season, to be a part of the NL MVP conversation and, perhaps, in the mix for the best catcher in baseball belt. He’ll receive some top 10 MVP votes, if not top five.

, 2B, Rangers

The Rangers made perhaps the biggest improvements this offseason by adding All-Star middle infielders Corey Seager and Semien. But through the first couple of months through the year, the latter signing wasn’t looking so hot.

After finishing third in the AL MVP race in 2021 with 6.2 fWAR, Semien stumbled out of the gate with the bat. Through May, he was among the least productive hitters in baseball, posting a sub-.200 batting average (.199) and a 54 wRC+ along with one home run.

But once the calendar flipped to June, Semien began his long road to recovery. He hit seven home runs in June and followed that up with six more in both July and August. And he’s kept it up so far in September, which has been by far his best month overall. Semien has enjoyed a .330/.373/.606 line with six home runs and a 175 wRC+.

Now, Semien’s season-long stats don’t look much worse than last year’s MVP-like performance. His 4.4 fWAR is tied for 31st among all position players – a far cry from last year’s total but excellent nonetheless. His 113 wRC+ is decidedly a notch below last season’s 131, but it's solid when combined with his strong defense and baserunning. The Rangers have to feel a lot better about their seven-year, $175 million deal for Semien than they did early this season.