I missed much of the weekend series, but caught the final few innings of Sunday’s victory over the Phillies. One of the key plays of the game came with one out in the bottom of the tenth. With Placido Polanco on first, Chase Utley singled softly to center off Padres closer Heath Bell. Polanco, representing the tying run, tried to take third on the play and was gunned down by Tony Gwynn Jr., who made a terrific running throw.
Mark Grant called it a baserunning mistake by Polanco, but no way. Even with a perfect throw, Gwynn barely got the runner. He made a brilliant play.
This isn’t the first time Gwynn has done that. As ESPN’s Mark Simon informs us ($):
Baseball Info Solutions charts plays in more than 80 categories, and groups them into two groups- “Good Fielding Plays” and “Misplays.”
The definitions for each are very specific to encompass almost anything that could happen in the field.
Gwynn got credit for a “Good Fielding Play” for that 9th inning assist. He now has 11 “Good Fielding Plays” this season and more impressively NO misplays.
His net (good plays minus misplays) of 11 is the best of any centerfielder in baseball, two better than Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn.
Here’s the thing about Gwynn. Until very recently, I didn’t think he could stick in the big leagues on the basis of anything other than his name. However, it is clear from watching him that he has worked hard at his game to get the most out of what talent he has.
I saw Gwynn play several times in college. He had trouble throwing the ball back to the infield on the fly. If you’d told me 7 or 8 years ago that he would ever be able to make a throw like the one he made on Sunday, I’d have said you were full of crap.
Gwynn’s baserunning and defense have improved since he first came to the Padres. I remain skeptical that he will ever hit big-league pitching, but he’s starting to look like a legitimate fourth or fifth outfielder, which is something I didn’t used to believe he could become.
That throw had amazing carry. When he let fly I didn’t think he had a shot at Polanco, but it just kept boring through the air, almost like it picked up speed as it went along.
If he can get back to hitting RHP like he did last year, even close, that’s a valuable platoon player.
For a team that’s built on pitching and defense, he’s a valuable player to have in center field.
I have and will continue to argue that Gwynn’s glove warrants a starting job, at least on this team. If we’re going to be serious about running on pitching-and-defense, having one of the best center fielders in baseball is a good place to start.
Geoff: Agreed. I too thought it was a major blunder by Polanco to go there, given the ball was hit so shallow. After watching the multiple replays Channel 4 put up, Gwynn needed a perfect peg to get him and delivered.
Credit is due when it is deserved. That was a great play. Did you see the bench erupt when the ump called him out?
Pads picked Ed Whitson’s son with their 1st round choice. I always liked Whitson, intense. I remember him during that brawl in Atlanta; dude was fired up! So, a high school pitcher is Hoyer’s first pick. Billy Beane would be so disappointed.
Geoff, Enjoyed your analysis of the play and the player. It seems I need to check out Ducksnorts more often.
Finally saw that replay and it’s awesome. Wow.
Hope he keeps it up.
Here’s a familiar name doing well:
Pat, I think you meant Ed Whitson’s nephew. Tom Waits pointed that out to me earlier on Friar Forecast.
@Pat, Didi: I have seen Karsten variously referred to as Ed’s nephew and unrelated.
@JJ: If you are who I think you are, it’s great to hear from you! Hope all is well.