Tony Gwynn Came So Close to Hitting .400 – Like, Ridiculously Close

Just a few days ago – January 10 – we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the day the late, great Tony Gwynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And thanks to the San Diego Padre’s Facebook page, we even got to peek behind the curtain at the exact, very emotional moment Mr. Padre found out.

The resulting tears, of course, were all of the happiest variety:

And naturally, in a post about Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career, I was sure to include some of his crowning achievements, including his eight batting titles, .338 lifetime average, and membership in the 3,000-hit club. If one thing became clear upon reinspecting Gwynn’s career, it’s that the dude could hit. Plain and simple.

But that journey led me down a rabbit hole …. If Gwynn had a career .338 lifetime average, what was his highest single season average? His lowest? … How close did he come to hitting .400?

It was that final question that really got me excited. After all, there were only ever thirteen seasons (from just eight different players) in modern baseball history, wherein a player hit over .400, and they were all before 1941 (also seven of the thirteen came from a pretty formidable trio: Ty Cobb, Roger Hornsby, and Ted Williams).

So how close could Tony Gwynn have really gotten, right? He’s a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer, but surely, he’s not on the same level as Cobb or Williams, right? Well, as it turns out, that’s not entirely true. Gwynn played in parts of twenty MLB seasons from 1982 to 2001, and in one strike-shortened season, he came perilously close to joining a really exclusive group.

Here are the five seasons he was closest:

1994:

Batting Average: .394
Hits Needed: 3 (THREE!)

1997:

Batting Average: .372
Hits Needed: 17

1987:

Batting Average: .370
Hits Needed: 17

1995:

Batting Average: .368
Hits Needed: 17

1993:

Batting Average: .358
Hits Needed: 21

Yup, in a strike-shortened 1994 season, Tony Gwynn came within just three measly hits of joining the .400 club.

And don’t discount that season because of the strike too much; Gwynn still managed to tally nearly 500 plate appearances, which is no tiny sample. And after that, he came within 17 hits of the the club three more times (1987, 1995, 1997) and just over 20 hits short a fourth time (1993).

He may not be the all-time hit king, and he may have never quite made it to .400, but the results are in and Tony Gwynn will always be remembered as one of the best pure hitters in the history of the sport.

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