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Tony Gwynn vs. Wade Boggs?

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  • Tony Gwynn vs. Wade Boggs?

    Two great players and peers, both known for hitting for high averages. Who was the better player? I know at least some give the nod to Boggs based on positional adjustment, while others give the nod to Gwynn because he had a better all-around game for at least half of his career and was a better hitter for average.

    I fall into the latter camp. While I think the positional adjustment is a good argument for Boggs being perhaps more valuable, I don't think it means he was actually the better player.

    I definitely see arguments for Boggs based on the positional adjustments, and don't begrude those arguments, but Gwynn was a fine fielder early in his career (5 Gold Gloves), a good baserunner (319 SBs) whereas Boggs wad dreadful on the bases, and Gwynn never benefitted from playing at Fenway. However, the fact that pushes it over the edge for me is that Gwynn has the highest BA compared to league (adjusted) since Ty Cobb. Both players lay their claim to fame on hitting for high average, but Gwynn was the best in the game at hitting for average in the past 80 years, and that counts for a lot in my book.

    So take this poll to be on skill, rather than value, if you can.
    Tony Gwynn
    Wade Boggs

  • #2
    Easy, Tony Gwynn. When Boggs left the Red Sox he ceased being a consistent .345-.350 hitter.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis


    • #3
      --I probably can;t . Value is basically what you do with your skills and output is what I'm interested in. Boggs was no great shakes on the basepaths, but he was always ON base which is more important. I'd rather have Boggs walks and high BA at the top of my lineup than Gwynn's stolen bases and high BA.
      --In their primes, Boggs was as good or better a hitter for average as Gwynn. Gwynn comes out ahead for career because he was able to keep posting high BAs late into his 30s. That is a plus, but his other skills were shot by then. He got fat and bad knees and his base running and defense suffered, as did his durability. He was never a great fielder (GGs aside) and was an abysmal one by his mid-30s.
      --Both Boggs and Gwynn came up as less than polished fielders. Both worked hard at that aspect of their game and became very good ones. Gwynn was possibly better in RF at their primes than Boggs at 3B, but not by much and I'd rather have the good 3B if its close. Boggs stayed in much better shape and didn't fall off as much later in his career, so I'd have to give him the defensive edge for their careers.


      • #4
        Gwynn was the better player. When they were both playing and at their peaks, I'd probably take Boggs simply because a 3B hitting like that is worth more than an RF hitting like that. But, Gwynn lasted longer and had more good years. Gwynn was pretty much an all star talent from his first full season in 1984 to his last full year in 1999. That's fifteen years of being a great player. Boggs was really great for nine years, 1983-1992. Then after that, while Gwynn remained a great player for about 6 more years, Boggs really tailed off.


        • #5
          I'd pick Gwynn because he was one of the best contact hitters of all-time and was still raking into his 30's. Doesn't hurt that he won GG and stole 300+SB.
          "I was pitching one day when my glasses clouded up on me. I took them off to polish them. When I looked up to the plate, I saw Jimmie Foxx. The sight of him terrified me so much that I haven't been able to wear glasses since." - Left Gomez

          "(Lou) Gehrig never learned that a ballplayer couldn't be good every day." - Hank Gowdy


          • #6
            Since both of these players claim to fame is on BA, here's a look at adjusted BA+ for them compared to other high average hitters throughout history (I did not include players with less than 4000 ABs, unless they are current players such as Pujols and Ichiro; current players are italicized):

            Ty Cobb: 134
            Joe Jackson: 132 - Of course, no decline period
            Tony Gwynn: 129
            Rogers Hornsby: 127
            Napoelon Lajoie: 127
            Dan Brouthers: 127
            Ichiro Suzuki: 127 - Only 3401 ABs so far
            Rod Carew: 126
            Albert Pujols: 125 - Only 2954 ABs so far
            Ted Williams: 124
            Tris Speaker: 124
            Ed Delahanty: 123
            Wade Boggs: 122
            Honus Wagner: 122
            Stan Musial: 122
            Eddie Collins: 122
            Willie Keeler: 122
            Roberto Clemente: 121
            Jesse Burkett: 121
            Babe Ruth: 120
            Harry Heilmann: 120
            Cap Anson: 120
            Billy Hamilton: 120
            Sam Thompson: 120
            Lou Gehrig: 119
            Kirby Puckett: 119
            Vladimir Guerrero: 119
            George Sisler: 118
            Joe DiMaggio: 118
            Bill Terry: 118
            Don Mattingly: 118
            Tony Oliva
            Elmer Flick: 118
            Mike Piazza: 118
            Paul Waner: 117
            Hank Aaron: 117
            Sam Crawford: 117
            Roger Connor: 117
            Deacon White: 117
            Edgar Martinez: 117
            Nomar Garciaparra: 117
            Derek Jeter: 117
            Mickey Mantle: 116
            Joe Medwick: 116
            Edd Roush: 116
            Ginger Beaumont: 116
            Willie Mays: 115
            George Brett: 115
            Will Clark: 115
            Zack Wheat: 115
            Arky Vaughan: 115
            Richie Ashburn: 115
            Bill Madlock: 115
            Riggs Stephenson: 115
            Harvey Kuenn: 115
            Barry Bonds: 115
            Frank Thomas: 115
            Manny Ramirez: 115
            Todd Helton: 115

            Not counting Joe Jackson, Gwynn has a great claim for the second best hitter for average ever, and with era adjustments, could claim to be the best ever. That's enough in my book to give him the edge over Boggs here (not to mention that Gwynn was good on the bases, was a Gold Glover early in his career, and never had Fenway to pad his BA).


            • #7
              Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
              Easy, Tony Gwynn. When Boggs left the Red Sox he ceased being a consistent .345-.350 hitter.
              To Boggs' defense, he did manage to hit .302, .342, .324, and .311 in his first four years with the Yankees. Not bad considering that he was ages 35-38 then, so I'd say that's a pretty nice decline and reflects that he was skilled with the bat away from Fenway.


              • #8
                While Tony didn't have Fenway, Jack Murphy stadium certainly wasn't a stadium that hurt Tony's style of hitting. Like Boggs Tony was in a home stadium that was conducive to Tony's style of hitting.


                • #9
                  Wade Boggs. I really don't see how it is close. h


                  • #10
                    making a positional adjustment, Wade Boggs for sure


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DoubleX
                      So take this poll to be on skill, rather than value, if you can.
                      Skills, rather than value? How about bits of both. I'll look at Gwynn first.

                      Gwynn was easily the best pure hitter I ever saw. Beautiful swing, flawless mechanics, copiously studied hitting and the pitchers he faced. Gwynn was a true artist at the plate- hit the ball where it was pitched and never gave anything away. Unique in this era- hitting for old school averages and never being made to look silly swinging out of his shoes for a strikeout.

                      Here's a nice excerpt:

                      Gwynn's success in the big leagues was no accident. He always was an avid student of hitting, and it was evident in his entire approach to the game. He made his living going the other way with pitches, and seemed capable of practically placing the ball where he wants to hit it -- usually to his preferred spot in the hole between the shortstop and third baseman, an area Gwynn calls the "5.5 Hole." He maintained an extensive videotape collection of his previous at-bats and studied them religiously. For Gwynn, batting practice was not for fun, but to work on specific hitting situations, and All-Star Games become an opportunity to study the sweet left-handed swing of players such as Don Mattingly or Ken Griffey, Jr. Likewise, Gwynn worked hard to turn himself into a Gold Glove outfielder.

                      Perhaps the most vivid evidence of Gwynn's dedication to hitting was housed in a former storage closet at Qualcomm Stadium. There, he maintained an extensive videotape collection of his previous at-bats. Dubbed "Captain Video" Gwynn bought his first VCR for $500 in 1983; a decade later, he spent nearly $100,000 to install a state-of-the-art taping facility in the Padres' clubhouse. The investment paid off for Gwynn's teammates as well -- so much so that when slugger Greg Vaughn was traded from San Diego to Cincinnati in February 1999, he fell into a slump after unsuccessfully trying to lure the Padres' video technician to the Reds.

                      How many guys have played close to 20 years in the major leagues and have hit .300 every single season? Gwynn, Cobb, Joe Jackson come to mind, and in the history of baseball, that has to be it among guys with real careers. And I have to believe that it was more difficult to hit for a high average in Gwynn's time than the other two. And the only reason Gwynn fell below .300 even in his rookie season was due to the fact that he broke his wrist diving for a flyball, and the rehab was expectedly difficult.

                      People think of Gwynn as a one dimensional guy with an accountant's body. That's not accurate, as he was very fast in his youth and extremely athletic/talented.

                      During his college days at San Diego State, it was obvious Gwynn could hit. But scouts were concerned about his throwing arm and his commitment to baseball, since Gwynn also starred as a point guard on the SDSU basketball team. As a result Tony slipped in the third round of the June, 1981 draft, where he was selected by the Padres -- on the same day that he was drafted by the San Diego Clippers of the National Basketball Association.

                      Needless to say, A Div-I point guard drafted into the NBA is probably pretty quick, with decent hand eye coordination. Gwynn stole 56 bases in one year, won 5 Gold Gloves, and tied the modern National League record with 5 stolen bases in one game on Sept 20, 1986.

                      People also think Gwynn wasn't capable of hitting homeruns, which is also wrong. I'll never forget Gwynn's upper deck shot off of David Wells against the Yankees in game 1 of the 98' WS. Apparently he had chatted with Ted Williams prior to the 1998 season, and changed his approach to hitting the inside pitch (he had never tried to turn on the inside fastball, up to that point). It showed up in his numbers that year.

                      I often look at how a hitter (or pitcher) performed against the greatest players of his generation as an indicator of true greatness. Anybody can beat up on the Eric Miltons and Willis Hudlins of the game. This is something I noticed awhile back in studying Gwynn's record.

                                      AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
                      John Smoltz     65 30 8 2  2  12  3  1 .[B]462 [/B].485 .738 [B]1.224[/B]
                      Curt Schilling  41 16 4 0  1  6   0  2 [B].390[/B] [B].395 [/B].561 .956 
                      Greg Maddux     91 39 8 1  0  9  10  [B]0[/B] [B].429[/B] .485 .538 1.024 
                      Tom Glavine     93 29 4 0  2  7   5  2 .312 .347 .419 .766 
                      Pedro Martínez  35 11 1 0  0  4   1  [B]0[/B] .314 .333 .343 .676
                      Look at his totals against two of the greatest pitchers ever, Maddux and Pedro. Both were both unable to strike Gwynn out ONCE in 137 combined attempts. Let's not forget that Pedro Martinez is easily the hardest guy to hit in baseball history. That's absolutely incredible, and it may be a better testament than any Tony Gwynn's greatness/uniqueness.

                      Some other interesting historical notes:

                      --Gwynn had five or more hits in a game (one 6-hit game) NINE times, placing him 3rd on the all-time list behind Ty Cobb (14) and Rose (10).

                      --Players with four five-hit games in a season: Tony Gwynn (1993), San Musial (1948), Ty Cobb (1922), Willie Keeler (1897), and Ichiro Suzuki (2004).

                      --Behind only Ty Cobb (2,135 games) and Nap Lajoie (2,224) as the fastest players to reach 3,000 career hits.

                      --Hometown Gwynn was only one of 5 National Leaguers to play 20+ seasons while playing their entire career with one team (Anson, Ott, Musial, Stargell).

                      Wade Boggs, on the other hand, never had a fraction of the grace of Gwynn- he couldn't well at all, didn't look like I remember him going up there and hacking away, fouling off pitch after pitch with ugly chops, finally lining one the other way into short left center for a single. Entirely different style and a very dissimilar approach to hitting, but similarly outstanding results in terms of getting hits consistently.

                      I'll leave the Boggs discussion for another time, though.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
                        Easy, Tony Gwynn. When Boggs left the Red Sox he ceased being a consistent .345-.350 hitter.

                        He was already not hitting at that level anymore. People who claim Boggs lost that ability when he left the Red Sox are not doing very good research. The last season Wade hit over .360 was in 1988. His last four years with the Red Sox he hit .330, .302, .332, and .259. His first four years with the Yankees he hit .302, .342, .324, and .311. Numbers which are very consistent with his last years in Boston. His 1994 season was his best in terms of BA since 1988. Boggs had already declined before he left Boston. Leaving Boston did not rob Boggs of his abilites, as they were already less than what they had once been. I would give Gwynn a slight advantage as a contact hitter, and a big advantage on the base paths. Defensively Wade was very underrated as a third baseman. Boggs had a much better batting eye than Tony did, he knew how to work the strike zone better and did a much better job of getting on base. The primary advantage for Gwynn, however, was longevity. He was a great player when Wade was only a good player. This is a good comparison, as both were great players, and similar to a degree. Strangely, Wade's years with the Yankees showed people that he was not created by fenway, as he hit just as well in Yankee stadium as he had in his last few years with the Red Sox. He never hit .360 with the Yankees, but by then he was no longer a .360 hitter anyway.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DoubleX
                          To Boggs' defense, he did manage to hit .302, .342, .324, and .311 in his first four years with the Yankees. Not bad considering that he was ages 35-38 then, so I'd say that's a pretty nice decline and reflects that he was skilled with the bat away from Fenway.

                          Sorry, I repeated alot of this info in my post. I had not read your post yet.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BoSox Rule
                            Wade Boggs. I really don't see how it is close. h
                            Probably park effects that aren't properly accounted for in crap stats like OPS+.

                            Boggs hit .369/.464/.527 in 854 career games at Fenway, where he played more than 1/3rd of his career games.

                            Career Splits for Boggs:

                            .354 .443 .491
                            .302 .387 .395

                            Boggs would take the outside pitch off of that silly wall at Fenway consantly. Like Yaz before him, his doubles total is laughably higher at home than it was on the road.

                            Fenway has always been tremendous for average- certainly more so than Jack Murphy Stadium. No foul territory, the green monster, great hitting say Tony's stadium fit him as well as Wade's did his is also completely untrue, Ubiquitous.

                            Career Splits for Gwynn:

                            .343 .393 .466
                            .334 .384 .451

                            He did slightly better, as most do, but nothing vastly disparate, as was the case with Boggs.


                            • #15
                              --If you adjust for the 154, vice 162, games Hornsby is more or less even with Gwynn in PA. Then again, Gwynn lost a few hundred to the strike. Still there isn't much to choose between them in quantity.


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