Tony Gwynn has hit .225/.322/.326 this year, which isn’t exactly the most impressive batting line ever.
And yet, he’s actually been the second-most valuable Padre this year, after Adrian Gonzalez, according to WAR.
That means two things:
1.) The Padres don’t have any superstars beyond A-Gon.
2.) Gwynn is doing something beyond hit that makes him that valuable.
Gwynn’s contributed some on the bases (13-for-17 in steals), so that bumps his offensive value up a bit, but it looks like his value for 2010 has been wrapped up in his incredible defense.
According to UZR, Gwynn’s saved the Padres 9.9 runs with his glove in center in just 47 starts–that’s essentially a full win. Put an average defender in center who hits exactly as well as Gwynn, and the Padres win one fewer game thus far this year, and that works out to about three wins per season on defense alone.
To put a money value on it, Gwynn’s defense has already been worth over $3 million.
The defense has really improved for Gwynn, who rated somewhere around average in center last season. The improvement has come at a good time for him, allowing him to retain value as his offense slumps.
And yes, UZR is prone to sample fluctuation, so he may well not keep up this pace–I understand that. But still, that’s an extra win in the books for San Diego, so the Padres have to be happy about that.