In Tony Gwynn's heyday, we didn't have websites and Twitter accounts devoted to impressing us with baseball statistics. We looked at baseball cards and box scores, and when we saw Gwynn's name, we almost certainly gawked.
Just pick a few years and read his batting averages: .351, .317, .339, .370 — it was otherworldly. It was how you hit in video games, or while playing wiffle ball with your friends. But Gwynn was doing it against the best baseball players in the world. A true hitting machine, he was.
With news of his death Monday, at the unfortunately young age of 54 after a battle with cancer, the Internet was flooded with Gwynn stats, each more incredible than the next. It was like 1987 again (the year Gwynn hit .370) and we were all in awe of his numbers.
Most of us know the headlines — the .338 career batting average, the eight batting titles, the 3,141 career hits and 15 All-Star games — but Gwynn's greatness went beyond the big shiny stuff. It could also be found in his lack of strikeouts, his four-hit games, his ability to get a hit with two strikes.
So here are 19 incredible facts about No. 19, Mr. Padre, the illustrious Tony Gwynn:
• Gwynn's rookie season, in which he played in 54 games, is the only year of his career that he didn't hit .300. He hit .289. His 19 consecutive .300 seasons are second to only Ty Cobb, who had 23.
• Gwynn's career .338 batting average is of a different era. As Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan notes, every other hitter with an average of .338 or above started his career before 1940.
• From 1995, the year he turned 35, to 2001, the final year of his career, Gwynn hit .350, with 937 hits. He never stopped being productive at the plate.
• For his career batting average to slip below .300, Gwynn would have needed to add 1,183 hitless at-bats to his total — roughly the equivalent of two full seasons. (Via @AceballStats)
• Of the 12 top batting seasons since the expansion era began in 1961, Gwynn owns four of them. Those are: .368 in 1995, .370 in 1987, .372 in 1997 and .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. (via Baseball Reference)
• In 1994, Jeff Bagwell hit .368, the 13th best season since 1961, but didn't even win the NL batting title because Gwynn was nearly 30 points better.
• 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.
• Gwynn's 434 career strikeouts are an amazing mark for a player who had 10,232 career plate appearances. Paul Waner is the only member of the 3,000 hit club to do better. He struck out 376 times in 10,766 plate appearances from 1926-1945. (Via ESPN Stats & Info)
• For comparison's sake: Adam Dunn has struck out 486 times since the start of 2012. Mark Reynolds struck out exactly 434 times in 2009 and 2010.
• In 1995, Gwynn struck out only 15 times in 535 at-bats. That's insane. As Aceball Stats points out, 27 current MLB players have already struck out than more than 15 times in June.
• Eleven times in his career Gwynn managed to not strikeout for 20 consecutive games. The longest streak, 39 games, came in 1995.
• Only once in his career did Gwynn have a three-stikeout game. Eerily, it came against Bob Welch on April 14, 1986. Welch died last week at age 57. That was quite a game. Welch pitched 9 2/3 innings, striking out 12, but the Padres won 4-3. Gwynn had a hit earlier in the game, then reached on an error in the 10th inning and scored to tie the game at 3. The next inning, the Padres won on a walk-off homer.
• More on Gwynn's lack of strikeouts: He faced some great pitchers, but even the cream of the crop had trouble getting him out. Neither Pedro Martinez nor Greg Maddux ever struck him out. Maddux faced Gwynn 107 times and Gwynn hit .415 off Maddux.
• As Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm dug up: Gwynn had 323 career at-bats against Maddux, Martinez, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and struck out only three times. Glavine got him twice. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe notes that Curt Schilling managed to strike out Gwynn twice in 43 at-bats.
• Gwynn never hit for .400 in one season, though he came close to matching Ted Williams. In that strike-shortened 1994 season, Gwynn finished at .394 through 110 games. He was hitting .423 in the second half of the season, so it was very much a possibility.
• Gwynn did top .400 for a 179-game span between July 3, 1993 and May 9, 1995. He hit .403 in 697 at-bats.
• In two-strike counts, Gwynn hit .302. That's a statistic that's only been measured since 1988, and since then, Gwynn's mark is easily the best. Wade Boggs, next on the list, hit .260 in two-strike counts. (Via @Castrovince)
• From 1984-1999, there was only one season that Tony Gwynn wasn't named an All-Star. That was 1988. But he won the NL batting title that year, hitting .313, so he got the last laugh.
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