SAN DIEGO—The saying "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" applies perfectly to the San Diego Padres, including Tony Gwynn Jr.
They have only one All-Star, Adrian Gonzalez, yet own the best record in the National League (49-33) and a four-game lead in the West Division.
It also explains how a homegrown center fielder, hitting just .227, can be one of their most important players.
It's no surprise that the Padres beat Houston on Sunday on a game-winning single by Tony Gwynn Jr. When Gwynn hits safely in a game, the Padres win nearly 70 percent of the time (25-11). The only problem: he's hit safely in just 36 games this season.
"I was working on a new stance in the beginning of the season," Gwynn said. "I kind of had to find a medium between what was working for me last season and some of the new things I worked on during the off-season. It's starting to come around."
"Tony's had a good couple of games in areas where Tony needs to be the complete player," Padres' manager Bud Black said. "I still think his average will climb as we move into the second half here."
That climb has already started. Since May 31st, Gwynn has raised his batting average 40 points.
But the son of a Hall-of-Famer, who's father hit .338 during a 20-season career and has his likeness on a larger-than-life statue beyond center field at Petco Park, said his main contributions still come from his legs and his glove.
"I'm just out there doing my job, " Gwynn Jr. said. "I think, obviously, defense is my best attribute as a baseball player. I want to be as crispy as possible out there I don't want to give anything I can get to."
"You have to do the little things," Padres' closer Heath Bell said. "Play defense, get guys over, hustle to first, hustle to second, dive and make a play, throw somebody out. You have to do the little things to win and he's all about that."
In that regard, Gwynn Jr. has lots in common with his dad. The elder Gwynn won five gold gloves with the Padres in the late 1980's and early 90's and at least one of Gwynn Jr.'s current teammates believes son can play catch even better than dad.
"I think Junior's a little bit better defensively," said Padres' shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr., himself the son of a former Major Leaguer. "Tony Jr. is not trying to be his dad, but to come in to the city of San Diego where you grew up, and have your dad's statue in center field, he handles it as well as you possibly can. It's just a testament to how senior and his mom raised him. He's a great, great kid."