The year that Tony Gwynn hit .400

Here’s a treat for you. Following is a graph of Tony Gwynn‘s rolling batting average throughout his career for each 162-game period. The first data point is at his 162nd-career game and gives his batting average for his first 162 games.

Click on the image for a slightly larger version.

I’ve labeled many of the high and low points. Right away, you’ll notice that Gwynn hit .402 over a 162-game period ending in 1995. From July 27th 1993 through May 13, 1995, Gwynn appeared in 162 games, and had 704 plate appearances. He had 624 at-bats with 251 hits (.402 BA), as well as 15 HR, 100 RBI, 121 runs scored, a .457 OBP and a .563 SLG.

Other notes about the fabulous Mr. Gwynn:

  • It’s hard not to think of Ted Williams‘ 1941 at this point. That year, Williams batted .406 while leading the league with 37 HR, a .553 OBP, a .735 SLG, and a 235 OPS+. Gwynn was obviously not the same kind of hitter as Williams, never showing that same kind of power. Still over the 1994 season (all of which was encompassed in his .400 season) Gwynn had an OPS+ of 169, his career high. Gwynn also gets high marks for maintaining his average over 624 at-bats. In Williams’ season, he had only 456 at-bats thanks mainly to his very high walk total (and the fact that he didn’t play 162 games.)
  • The lowest “rolling-162” batting average of Gwynn’s career was .290 (actually .28952), which he had after the game on August 1, 1992. His full stat line for the preceding 162, covering back to June 23, 1991, was 702 PAs, 639 at-bats, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 88 runs scored, with a slash line of .290/.348/.388. Decidedly un-Gwynnish, but a “worst” career line that hundreds of ballplayers would gladly take, especially the .348 OBP.
  • Dude closed out his career batting .343 in his final 162 games, slightly higher than his career mark of .338.
  • Those 251 hits Gwynn got over his .400 “season”–that’s an extremely high number. Ichiro had 262 in 2004 (with the benefit of 704 at-bats) and before that the last guy to have so many in a regular season (within a single year) was Bill Terry, with 254 in 1930.


63 thoughts on “The year that Tony Gwynn hit .400

  1. 1
    Scott says:

    This post is interesting because Tony Gwynn really did have a shot at .400 when he batted .394 during the 1994 strike shortened season. To this day, I still think that Tony had the best shot at hitting .400 after Ted Williams. If it hadn’t had happened, I think he would have done it. It would have been close but Mr. Gwynn would have had a .400 season in my opinion.

    (Also, I think someone around here should do an article on what could have been with the 1994 strike shortened season if it hasn’t been done already. Many interesting storylines happened that year with so many what-ifs.)

    • 6
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      Also, Matt Williams had 43 HR and was projected to hit 62 over a full season, Griffey Jr had 40 HR. Frank Thomas wasn’t that far away from a .500 OBA (.487), Bonds is the only player to do this since 1957. Thomas was also projected to score 152 runs, the most since 1936.

      I’m not as positive as Scott that Gwynn would’ve hit .400 in 1994. There is a very strong tendency to “regress to the mean” over a full season, even for great players. The 1994 Padres had 45 scheduled games left, about 28% of the season. Gwynn would’ve had to hit about .415 over the remaining 45 games to hit .400 for a full 1994 season, higher if he missed remaining scheduled games. That’s just not that easy to do.

      • 14

        Yankees and Expos in the World Series.

        Jimmy Key wins 25 games.

        Maddux wins 23 with 15 CG and an era under 1.7

        Kenny Lofton has 230 hits and 85 steals… and 10 WAR.

        Chuck Knoblauch and Craig Biggio have 65 doubles.

        Kirby Puckett has 160 RBI.

        Jeff Bagwell has 420 Total Bases.

        • 21
          Tristram12 says:

          Sorry, Voomo, but I think Bagwell would have been stuck at 300 Total Bases. He broke his hand the day before the strike, and probably would have been out for the rest of the season.

        • 41
          Howard says:

          Fred McGriff might be in both the 50 and 500 HR clubs and have a better chance at the HOF.

    • 51
      Scott says:

      One other thing I forgot. Mike Mussina could have won 20 games a lot sooner since he was sitting on 16 wins before the strike happened…

  2. 2

    Oh snap. Now I want to go look at 162-game rolling totals for everything. What would each record look like? And how about back into the 19th century when there were much shorter schedules? Very interesting stuff?

  3. 4
    kds says:

    It is interesting how much up and down there is. BA has more variation than many of the rate stats.

    Doing these running totals in terms of 162 team games rather than games played would be closer to our concept of accomplishing something over a season.

  4. 5
    topper009 says:

    I think Wade Boggs also hit over .400 for 162 straight games in the late 80s

    • 11
      Richard Chester says:

      If I have done my work correctly from 6-9-85 to 6-6-86 to Boggs batted .401. He maintained a .400 pace for one more game.

    • 22
      Doug says:

      I thought Rod Carew might have done it with his blazing start to 1978 after hitting .388 in 1977. Came really close, but the best 162 games I can find is .399 from 5-14-77 to 5-21-78.

    • 25
      Doug says:

      Ted Williams did hit .400 over a 162 game stretch – .400 even from Sep 11, 1940 to end of 1941.

      He hit .409 over 162 games from Sep 15, 1940 to Apr 17, 1942.

  5. 7
    Mark says:

    Wow, that certainly is a jump in performance starting around 1992 (afraid to say anything more!) — seriously though, I’m as altruistic as anyone, especially with such a “good guy” as Gwynn, but it’s hard to ignore that, uh, enhancement.

    • 8
      Andy says:

      Yeah, Gwynn was a classic steroids user. He had that ultra-toned muscular body and really started driving the ball into the stands in 1993. He must have been shooting up at least twice a day.

      COME ON.

      Overall offense, including batting average, increased dramatically in 1993/94. Parks got smaller, there was a round of expansion, average pitching got worse. Gwynn hit more often with guys on base, which enhances any batter’s average…plus he was at his own personal peak.

      • 16
        Mark says:

        Oh gosh, believe it or not, I didn’t mean to “troll” there! My mentality was actually just what you described at first, Andy — I guess I meant just to point out the, I don’t know, unfortunate coincidence of the timing, and the shame it is that we — well, at least I — have been conditioned to be skeptical, even with someone on the purest end of the spectrum. I did the worst job possible of trying not to imply an actual accusation, but either way, the notion was met with precisely the reality-check beat-down (with great factual basis to boot) it warranted! I don’t speak up much here, but I hope I didn’t sully too much credibility with a forum I very much respect!

      • 33
        Doug says:

        Cool chart BTW, Andy.

    • 9

      I truly believe that the run environment went up MLB-wide by 0.48 runs PER GAME simply because Tony Gwynn was enhancing.

    • 19
      topper009 says:

      They starting using a new ball in 1993 yet everyone on the planet is oblivious to this fact. Instead it is much more likely that the whole league all systematically starting using steroids at the same rate and raised the league wide scoring in 1993…even though Canseco had been juicing up with teammates since the 80s?

      • 30
        bstar says:

        I could not agree more with this, especially the part where everyone else seems to be oblivious to it.

  6. 12
    Andy says:

    An interesting thing I’d like to know but don’t have the time to research right now–what is the longest window of games over which Ted Williams hit .400? I wonder if Gwynn can beat it. His total window was 164 or 165.

    • 13
      Tristram12 says:

      Whatever Ted did, it doesn’t beat the 5 year full-seasons run from Rogers Hornsby (.40239 for 1921-1925).

      • 15

        Well, Hornsby “only” batted

        those first three years.

        154 games in the .401 season.
        And in neither that last 8 games of 1921 or the first 8 games of 1923 did he maintain the pace.

        So that throws out those years.
        As for his .424 and .403 seasons, those were over 281 games.
        Don’t have time to chart it right now, but he probably wan’t over .400 for that entire stretch, either…

        • 18
          birtelcom says:

          Voomo, I don’t think we are looking for stretches of games where the player was continuously over .400, never falling below that level. Rather, we are looking for stretches where, totaling all games from the first game of the stretch through the last game of the stretch, the player had a total number of hits over the stretch that was at least 40% of his total number of at bats over the stretch. By that latter standard, Tristram is quite right about Hornsby.

          • 20

            Right. I figured that out about 30 minutes after I wrote it.

            But I find that way of looking at it more curious.

            The first two years of that 5 year stretch he was at .399
            After 3 years it was .395
            After the 2nd and 3rd year it was .394

            It wasn’t until somewhere around his 500th game of that stretch that the avg reached .400

          • 24
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            Try Ty Cobb, starting from 1910-1913; that’s about .401 for just those four full seasons.

    • 17
      birtelcom says:

      Ted had a multi-year stretch of 168 games (his last 16 games of 1940, his full 143 games of 1941 and his first 9 games of 1942) over which his batting average was .402. Whether that was his longest over-.400 stretch of games, I don’t know.

      • 27
        Doug says:

        Also, he maintained a .400 average from games 162 to 168 starting at end of 1941 season (includes last 19 games of 1940), and continuing through the first 6 games of 1942.

        • 29
          Richard Chester says:

          If you count the last 22 games of 1940 instead of the last 19 Wiliams hit .401 over a stretch of 171 games.

          • 34
            Doug says:

            He did, but he maintained that .400 clip only from games 165 (end of 1941) to 171. So, it’s still only a 7 game stretch.

          • 35
            Richard Chester says:

            Doug: I meant to reply to birtelcom. I had 22 games in 1940, 143 in 1941 and 6 in 1942.

  7. 26
    Jimbo says:

    Fred Mcgriff would’ve likely had his only 40 homer year in ’94, would’ve cleared 500 home runs, and probably would’ve made the hall of fame (more quickly, I think he’ll get there eventually).

    Albert Belle would’ve quite possibly done the 50 homers/50 doubles thing (which he did in the strike shortened 95 season also. The only player to ever do it, and he would’dve done it twice.

    Barry Bonds would’ve had a very high chance of going 40/40 for the first time in his career.

    Jose Canseco, a 40 homer season for the rangers possibly, giving him 40 homer seasons on 3 different teams, surely that’s pretty rare.

    Matt Williams in 94 was a very odd season. On pace for 61 home runs, but only a .319 OBP and a .926 OPS. Clearly Bonds batting behind him had a lot to do with this.

    But hey, Joe Carter still managed his 103 rbi’s on 0.4 WAR. Maybe he would’ve driven in 135 on 0.5 WAR.

    • 28
      Doug says:

      Kirk Gibson also had an odd 1994 season. At age 37, he scored 71 runs from only 382 PAs, an 18.6% rate, 11% better than his next highest rate of 16.8% in his MVP season of 1988.

    • 32
      CursedClevelander says:

      Speaking of Albert Belle and the 50/50 mark, check out his September/Oct (regular season) of 1995:

      .313/.420/.929 in 120 PA with 15 BB and 14 K. His BABIP? A mere .203. And the most ridiculous part? 31 hits, 10 2Bs, 17 HRs…and 4 singles. A 27 to 4 XBH to single ratio for the month.

      Shows what a difference a month can make. In August of the same year, he had a similar OPS in a similar # of PAs, had the same number of XBHs, but had 18 singles and a .348 BABIP.

      But more to the point, in a reasonable amount of PAs, has anybody ever bested that 27 to 4 ratio? Especially with so many XBHs and such good overall numbers. Bonds in March/April of 2001, for example, had 2 singles and 16 XBH in 91 PAs, but he hit a relatively mortal (for him, anyway) .240/.363/.747 over that period.

    • 42
      Howard says:

      Shucks, Jimbo. I didn’t read the whole thread and made almost exactly the same comment about McGriff (though I speculated he might have hit 50 HRs) in response to an earlier post.

  8. 31
    Abbott says:

    From 4/7/2001 to 4/17/2002, Barry Bonds hit 80 home runs!

  9. 38
    topper009 says:

    From 7/24/1927 to 7/30/1928 Babe Ruth hit 71 HRs

  10. 43
    John Autin says:

    Luke Appling, from Sept. 8, 1935 (2nd game) through the end of 1936:
    — 162 games, 244 hits in 614 ABs, .397 BA, 101 walks, 146 RBI, 129 Runs, only 6 HRs.

    Thought I could get him over the hump, but no.

  11. 44
    Shping says:

    @4 kds:

    “Doing these running totals in terms of 162 team games rather than games played would be closer to our concept of accomplishing something over a season.”

    Great point, kds. I’m sure it makes all these interesting calculations even more tedious, but almost everybody needs a day off now and then, and eliminating those rest days does skew the results a little. Still lots of good stuff here tho.

    It also has me curious: If somebody ever miraculously breaks DiMaggio’s 56-gm hitting streak, or even Rose’s at 44, but does it while overlapping the course of 2 two seasons (say, the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013), how many of us would view that streak as legitimate? Fair or not, i would view it on a slightly lesser plane. Other votes?

    • 48
      John Autin says:

      “how many of us would view that streak as legitimate?”
      — I’d guess fans of that player and that team, and people under the age of 30.

    • 53
      e pluribus munu says:

      I think we’ve actually had a test run, of sorts, Shping. Carl Hubbell broke Rube Marquand’s record of 19 straight wins in 1936/37. A very poopular pitcher, playing for pennant winners in NY – Marquand’s team. How many people think of Hubbell’s 24 rather than Marquand’s 19 when asked what the longest pitcher winning streak is? I think even those who think of Hubbell right away will add, “but he did it over two seasons.”

    • 56
      Shping says:

      @48 and @53

      Hee hee and good examples. Thanks guys. I feel better.


      Belive it or not, i’m fairly sure you could also find a 2-year period (or less) where Fielder hit 2 inside-the-park hrs and at least 2-4 triples. My memory is far from perfect, and i’d look it up if i knew how, but i think so.

      • 57
        Shping says:

        Oops, i meant Prince, and i just noticed you meant Cecil. Nonetheless…

        • 58
          Richard Chester says:

          Prince Fielder hit IPHRs on 6-17-2007 and 6-19-2008. Just logon to Baseball Reference, search for Fielder and click on his HR log and scroll.

  12. 45
    John Autin says:

    Lefty O’Doul, 4/27/29 through 5/7/30:
    — 162 games, 270 hits, 667 ABs, .405 BA, 83 walks, 161 Runs.

    In the first 15 games of 1930, he hit .500 with 29 hits — but just 4 RBI.

  13. 46
    Phil says:

    I’ve found a number of rolling-162s where Cecil Fielder did not steal a base.

  14. 47
    John Autin says:

    Harry Heilmann’s luck holds: I can get both his 1921 (.394) and ’25 (.393) seasons up to .399 with the tail ends of the prior years. His 1927 (.398) cannot be improved with games from either side.

    Oh, well — at least he did hit .403 in 1923.

    • 50
      Richard Chester says:

      Heilmann and Hornsby are the only two players with a seasonal average of .393 or more 4 times.

  15. 49
    Richard Chester says:

    Bill Terry:
    From 9-21-29 to 9-27-30, 266 hits.

  16. 52
    bstar says:

    Todd Helton had 63 doubles from 6/2/2000 to 5/27/2001.

    • 60
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      He’s no Earl Webb, though (it’s the yahoo-Red Sox fan in me…).

      • 61
        bstar says:

        Ha, no Helton was no Earl Webb but it would have been really cool to see someone get to 60 doubles for the first time since the mid-30s(he missed by one in 2000).

  17. 62
    Jeff says:

    Does anyone think it was easier to hit in the 30s-60s? I mean have middle infielder become faster? Have center fielders become faster along with entire outfield? Have pitchers developed more pitches with more movement, do managers now take pitchers out in the 6th inning and go to a middle relief and then closer now? All these are huge factors in ones batting average, I have watched tapes of old timers throwing. If you think Tony Gwynn would not have hit 430 when Tedd or Cobbs played your crazy. I played ball and when you where getting your third ab off a pitcher you couldnt wait as apposed to them taking them out and you seeing a new guy. Show me a shortstop like Ozzie, Omar etc or a second baseman like Alomar and the consistency of better fielding and all around faster athletes…and then take into account the pitching now..again no comparison.

    • 63
      mosc says:

      See, this post is why I prefer a forum to the newspost style presentation. You can only see Jeff’s comments on the “new post” section while it’s one of the most recent few and the topic could keep going long after it’s off of the front page. We could also search for content easier.

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