Second Half specialists - National League
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We're coming up on this year's Summer Classic, the emotional halfway point to the baseball season although most teams will have played more than the numerical midpoint of 81 games.

It's a good time to step back and look at the big picture. Who on your team has played above and below expectations in the first half?

That's not too hard to answer. Just look at the numbers.

But now comes a much more difficult step - evaluating who will improve in the second half and who will fade from view?

Unless you have a crystal ball or a DeLorean built by Dr. Emmett Brown with a working flux capacitor, one of the best ways to evaluate players is based on their past production.

It won't work for rookies, who have no history for evaluation, but for the majority of major leaguers, it's the best way. There are some players who simply are better second-half hitters than in the first half.

The reason may be weather-related, or it may take them longer to find their swing, but whatever the case, you can benefit from knowing who will play better in the heat of the summer.

Below we have listed the top six NL hitters with the best history of improvement in their OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) from the first half of the season to the second half.

Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets (+152) - Davis was so bad this spring that the team sent him down to Triple-A Las Vegas to work on his swing. It hasn't been much better in the eight games since he returned (batting .192), but in both 2010 and 2012 he was a much improved second half hitter. If you have an open spot on your roster, stashing Davis for later in the season could pay off handsomely.

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington (+120) - LaRoche has always been the "poster boy" for second half hitters as he's consistently started slow and come on strong over the course of his 10-year career. He fooled us with a strong May and many thought he was starting his summer explosion early, but slid back in June and the first two weeks of July. He'll turn it around, he always does.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado (+116) - Tulowitzki is already off to a fantastic start - batting .332 with 16 HR, 52 RBI in 64 games. If he stays healthy, he could challenge for the fantasy MVP trophy. Sure, he'll cost you an arm and a leg to obtain in a deal, but it will be worth it.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami (+110) - Stanton struggled early on due to injuries and lack of protection in the lineup, but now with Logan Morrison and Marcel Ozuna behind him he could be primed for a big second half. Given his pedestrian numbers (.250, 10 HR, 27 RBI in 51 games) you could probably trade for him without having to overpay.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia (+106) - It's disappointing that Howard will be sidelined for 5-7 more weeks with knee problems because this is prime time for the Phillies first baseman. He was batting .308 with an .896 OPS in the week before going on the disabled list. At the most he'll give you five weeks of production at the end of the season, so may not be worthy of a play.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington (+87) - Zimmerman, like his Nationals team through the first 95 games, has been mostly disappointing. He's batting .270 with 11 HR and 51 RBI. The facts are, however, if he plays 140 or more games, he produces at least 25 homers and close to 100 RBI. That means he should have a productive second half.

Tomorrow we will examine the American League.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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