Rob Long: The Best I’ve Seen
The death of Tony Gwynn has caused me to engage in several conversations centered around the debate of him being the best hitter of my lifetime. Often, when discussing the best, crazy numbers come into effect that cause me to question what I actually see with my eyes. I believe if made up stats make me change my opinion then they are exactly that. They are made up.
The year was 1994 and baseball was threatening stoppage of play. During that time, guys like Gwynn, Matt Williams, Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell were having great seasons. Williams finished the shortened season with 43 home runs in just 112 games. He finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player race to the 26-year-old Bagwell who batted .368 with 39 homers and 116 runs batted in.
Yes, Jeff Bagwell batted an amazing .368 in 1994, yet he finished 26 points behind the leader, Tony Gwynn. That year, Gwynn had one of the more incredible seasons I have ever witnessed by a hitter. Not since George Brett batted .390 in 1980 had I watched a hitter dialed in so much.
Tony Gwynn batted .403 at home and .387 on the road. He batted .423 in the second half of the season. His lowest monthly batting average was .370 in July. Gwynn’s best month was August, which was the final month of the season. Gwynn batted .475 in that month. So we don’t know whether or not Gwynn would have continued that pace. What we do know is much like the 1994 season, Tony Gwynn’s life was cut short.
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