It was announced today that Tony Gwynn passed away.
I don't think I need to reiterate all the amazing things he did in his Hall of Fame career as most other articles online will already do that. However, a short summary of his accomplishments include 8 NL batting titles, a career .338 batting average, 3141 career hits, and 15 All Star appearances.
What astonishes me more than anything else about his career is the number of times he struck out. Compared to today's modern hitters Tony Gwynn just simply refused to strike out.
In 10,232 plate appearances over 20 seasons, Gwynn struck out a total of 434 times.
As a comparison, Mark Reynolds struck out 434 times in just two seasons from 2009-2010. Adam Dunn struck out 411 times from 2012-2013.
Gwynn never struck out more than 40 times in a season. He only struck out over 30 times only 5 times total. He struck out fewer than 20 times on five separate full season occasions (not counting the strike shortened 1994 season). In 1995, when Tony Gwynn won another NL batting title by hitting .368, he struck out an almost inconceivable 15 times total.
How does compare to today's better hitters? Here are recent batting title champions that are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame and the their best strikeout seasons in which they qualified for a batting title.
Joe Mauer - 2005 - 50 strikeouts
Ichiro Suzuki - 2001 - 53 strikeouts
Miguel Cabrera - 2011 - 89 strikeouts
Albert Pujols - 2006, 50 strikeouts
Chipper Jones - 2008, 61 strikeouts
None of them can even crack the 50 strikeout barrier.
How rare is this low strikeout ability now? Since 2000 only the following players have struck out less than 30 times in a season while qualifying for a batting title.
2005 - Placido Polanco, 25 strikeouts
2004 - A.J. Pierzynski, 27 strikeouts
2002 - Jason Kendall, 29 strikeouts
2001 - Juan Pierre, 29 strikeouts
2000 - Mark Grace, 28 strikeouts
And how many players have struck out less than 20 times? Zero.