Tony Gwynn would have been a deadball era treasure

If you ever wanted to know what a deadball hitter looked like back in the day, you may have seen one without knowing it.

Baseball-Reference posted an interesting article today about Gwynn and his strikeout rate.  A strikeout, as postulated by many and included in Moneyball, is the worst possible outcome for an at-bat in a vacuum. (The worst in a non-vacuum is a double- or triple-play, but since there are only five types of outcomes of an at-bat–strike out, walk, groundball, flyball or line drive–with varying results, we’ll stick to the vacuum for now).

Anyway.  B-R posted on the blog today that Gwynn had struck out once every 7.237 hits.  Gwynn was pretty amazing.

In that post, B-R showed the batters with the same or higher strike out-to-hit ratio listed in order of career hits. The list is pretty short, but only Gwynn and Nellie Fox played after 1950.  There were only four players with as good of a strike out-to-hit ratio and more career hits than Gwynn:

  1. Ty Cobb (4,189)
  2. Tris Speaker (3,514)
  3. Eddie Collins (3,315)
  4. Paul Waner (3,152)
  5. Tony Gwynn (3,141)

Waner played in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, but what odd company for Gwynn.  Sometimes you see a player who hits a lot of high home runs and flyballs and you wonder how that player would have fared back in the days of the Polo Grounds and unbearably huge outfields.  Gwynn was a callback to the early era of hitters who didn’t hit for home runs–instead, they got a lot of doubles and triples.  Tony probably would have been a great hitter in any era.  How cool is that.

Note that Gwynn played in an era of more aggressive pitchers–pitchers average a lot more strike outs today than they did in the deadball years, so his achievements are all the more amazing.

Man, Gwynn could have stayed in for another 15 games and passed Waner on that list …

Oh well, here’s a post to Gwynn.  Maybe more on him later.


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