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.