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June 6, 2013

Overthinking It

The Plate Discipline-Only Prospect

by Ben Lindbergh


You know that the strikeout has become a much more common occurrence in the majors. What you might not know is that the story is much the same in the Texas League, whose Double-A history dates back to the mid-1940s. The progression hasn’t been quite as steep or as steady, but the end result is the same: this season, Texas League pitchers are striking out 7.6 batters per nine innings, just like the ones in the majors.

But there’s one Texas Leaguer whose strikeout rate refuses to rise. He’s an outfielder for the Springfield Cardinals, and his name is Mike O’Neill.

“I hate striking out,” O’Neill says. “That’s my biggest pet peeve in baseball.”

A few months ago, the Times’ Tyler Kepner interviewed Jeff Keppinger, the big leagues’ reigning king of contact. When he was a kid, Keppinger told Kepner, he would cry when he struck out, convinced that he’d done something “horrible.” O’Neill takes strikeouts almost as hard, explaining, “If I go 3-for-4, and I have a strikeout, that kind of ruins my day.”

Keppinger couldn’t shake the feeling that “everyone was laughing” at him in the stands. But O’Neill doesn’t worry about what anyone else thinks. He hates strikeouts because of how they make him feel.

“If I strike out, that means the pitcher beat me in a personal battle,” O’Neill explains. “I don’t like to lose at all. I’m a competitor out there, and I go at-bat to at-bat. If I put the ball in play and I get out, so be it, that’s the game of baseball. But if he strikes me out, he won that, and I just do not accept defeat.”

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Potential... (06/06)
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Overthinking It: This ... (06/01)
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Premium Article Eyewitness Accounts: J... (06/06)

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