A Look at Tony Gwynn's Numbers: Rest in Peace, Mr. Padre
The San Diego Padres announced today that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at the age of 54, following a battle with salivary gland cancer. From Commissioner Bud Selig: “Major League Baseball today mourns the tragic loss of Tony Gwynn, the greatest Padre ever and one of the most accomplished hitters that our game has ever known, whose all-around excellence on the field was surpassed by his exuberant personality and genial disposition in life.”
I never saw Tony Gwynn play, and his impact on the game is so huge that I’m never going to be able to do it justice with just words and numbers. But since this is a numbers-driven site, we all felt it was important to point out some of the ridiculous things Gwynn did on the field during his 20-year career in baseball. The numbers speak for themselves.
- Gwynn currently sits 19th all-time in hits with 3,141, and 28th all-time in doubles, with 543.
- His .338 career batting average is the highest of any player who debuted after World War II.
- Gwynn led the National League in batting average eight times, five of those times leading the Majors. He led the league in hits seven times, with five of those leading the Majors as well. Those eight NL batting titles, by the way, are tied with Honus Wagner for the most in history. Yes, that includes Pete Rose, who only won three.
- In 1994, he had the highest single season batting average (.394!) since Ted Williams in 1941.
- The model of consistency, he had a .300 batting average in 19 consecutive seasons, which is second to Ty Cobb all time.
- He is a seven-time Silver Slugger as a right fielder, a position we pride as a power position in today’s game. Gwynn hit few home runs, but his many doubles resulted in a very respectable .459 career slugging percentage. And, oh yeah, he wasn’t such a slouch on defense either, with five career Gold Glove awards.
- He is the Padres career leader in WAR, batting average, games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, triples, runs batted in, walks, stolen bases, runs scored, total bases, and despite all of that, is outside the top 10 in strikeouts. In fact, his season high in strikeouts was 40, in 1988. In every season but his first, he had more walks than strikeouts. In the context of today’s strikeout-heavy game, that’s nearly unbelievable.
- The next bullet point is from a Yahoo Sports article, because the author put it so well: “Gwynn had nine five-hit games in his career. Only Pete Rose had more, with 10. Gwynn also had 45 games with at least four hits. That puts him 10th on the all-time list. In 2,440 career games, Gwynn had only 34 multi-strikeout games. So, the odds were better that Gwynn would get four hits than striking out twice. Let that sink in.”
- He played his career for one franchise, a rarity in today’s game. For 20 years, Tony Gwynn was the Padres, and it’s reflected in his nickname, one which has nothing to do with his amazing skillset, but rather the franchise he devoted his career to.
- A 15-time All-Star, he somehow never won an MVP award and only finished top five in balloting once.
His statue outside of Petco Park reads, “If you work hard, good things will happen.” Words to live by from one of the hardest workers and greatest players to ever grace a ballpark.
Rest in peace, Mr. Padre.