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Monday, March 26, 2012

Contact king for Tampa Bay Rays’ Keppinger

Get ready for baseball’s biggest discovery ever!

New Tampa Bay Rays infielder Jeff Keppinger subscribes to the brain theory, which is a reason he is one of the hardest guys to strike out in the history of baseball.

“He never wastes an at-bat,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Last season, Keppinger was the National League’s toughest hitter to strike out. He fanned only 24 times in 400 at-bats with the Houston Asros and the San Francisco Giants. The 31-year-old might sound a little baffled at his success, but he attributes it more to his mental approach than his physical skills. He is hitting .351 this spring and has struck out only once.

...Keppinger said athleticism helps, but it’s the mental approach and mind that determines whether ball and bat make contact. And that moment when ball meets bat lasts only 1/1000th of a second, according to Adair.

“If you hit the ball you can’t strike out, right?” Keppinger jokes. “I just try not to do too much. Instead of trying to drive the ball all the time, I try to put it in play. Early in the count when most guys are trying to drive the ball, I try to make contact.

“Certain pitchers that are strikeout pitchers are strikeout pitchers for a reason. You’ve got to start off trying to touch them a little and see what happens from there. It’s an approach I’ve always stuck with.”

Repoz Posted: March 26, 2012 at 05:41 AM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rays, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:05 AM (#4089195)
he is one of the hardest guys to strike out in the history of baseball


Pretty hyperbolic for a guy who would be 317th on the all-time list if he had enough ABs to qualify. For comparison, this would be like saying Terry Pendleton had one of the leading hit totals in MLB history.
   2. Howie Menckel Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:16 AM (#4089198)

well, I don't think calling Roger Connor "one of the best home run hitters in the history of baseball" is a stretch. It's all relative, and Keppinger is one of the hardest to strike out in this generation. One could define 'history of baseball' with a list of such guys thru the years.

   3. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:26 AM (#4089200)
Pretty hyperbolic for a guy who would be 317th on the all-time list if he had enough ABs to qualify.


Very few players ahead of him are of recent vintage. Only one is active (Juan Pierre). Only 16 have played since 1980. Hyperbolic, sure. But he is one of the best recent players. And given that he plays in (by far) the highest strikeout era in history, that may qualify him as one of the hardest ever.
   4. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:29 AM (#4089202)
Strikeout rates have been crazy high in contemporary baseball. Since 1994, among players with at least 600 MLB PA, Keppinger has the 9th lowest strikeout rate. Of the eight players ahead of him, seven retired by the 2000s, and the league K rate has increased by even more since then.

In the contemporary game, Keppinger's really only behind Juan Pierre. Placido Polanco is close, in quite a few more PA.

(Play-Index search for low strikeout rates post 1994)
   5. xanthan Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:31 AM (#4089204)
Can I just say that, as a Giants fan, watching Keppinger field his position was one of the worst things I've ever witnessed with my eyeballs? Dude was crazily slow.
   6. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 26, 2012 at 08:50 AM (#4089209)
But what is "brain theory"?
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:38 AM (#4089230)
You’ve got to start off trying to touch them a little and see what happens from there.


I feel like this sentence has rarely been used for good.
   8. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:50 AM (#4089236)
Keppinger's swinging contact rate: 92% for his career. That's pretty darn good.
   9. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4089238)
Another guy who's right up there, as contact hitters go: Jason Kendall. 89% for his career.
   10. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: March 26, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4089255)
But what is "brain theory"?
I think it's explained in full in Dianetics.
   11. tshipman Posted: March 26, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4089297)
Can I just say that, as a Giants fan, watching Keppinger field his position was one of the worst things I've ever witnessed with my eyeballs? Dude was crazily slow.


Almost as bad as watching him hit!
   12. cmd600 Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM (#4089319)
For a guy who doesn't try to draw walks or swing the bat with any sort of authority (by his own admission) I was expecting worse than a 92 OPS+.
   13. Russ Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:33 PM (#4089321)

8. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:50 AM (#4089236)
Keppinger's swinging contact rate: 92% for his career. That's pretty darn good.

9. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 26, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4089238)
Another guy who's right up there, as contact hitters go: Jason Kendall. 89% for his career.


Pirates organization knows how to produce guys who make contact.
   14. Randy Jones Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4089325)
Wouldn't you want to measure this by SO/PA and not SO/AB? Otherwise you are unfairly penalizing high walk players.
   15. flournoy Posted: March 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4089327)
Jeff Keppinger was a senior at Parkview High School when Jeff Francoeur was a freshman.
   16. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 26, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4089628)
Jeff Keppinger was a senior at Parkview High School when Jeff Francoeur was a freshman.


Jeff Keppinger: Providing Veteran Leadership (tm) since age 18.
   17. MM1f Posted: March 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM (#4089805)
Keppinger was great at Georgia. He was on the 2001 CWS team and took Prior deep in Omaha.
   18. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: March 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM (#4089866)
That he was ... here's his BA write-up from that year (#13 prospect in Georgia (banneryear for the state, mind you), #14 SS overall (third best hitting SS), overall ranking (I'm spitballing here), maybe around 150?):
Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger reminds scouts of Brian Roberts, a 1999 supplemental first-round pick by the Orioles. He has hit .365 or better in each of his three seasons at Georgia, and his 40-14 walk-strikeout ratio entering NCAA tournament play is a testament to his eye at the plate. He isn't expected to have much difficulty making the transition to wood. While Keppinger's hands are solid, he only has average speed and may have to move from shortstop to second base.
   19. Ron J Posted: March 27, 2012 at 04:42 AM (#4089907)
#14 Ideally you'd want to do it by K+. IE K per PA compared to league average (excluding pitchers)
   20. Walt Davis Posted: March 27, 2012 at 05:09 AM (#4089910)
But what is "brain theory"?

I think therefore I am.
   21. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: March 27, 2012 at 07:43 AM (#4089925)
I thought this might be about Contact Lens King, which has the best deals on Acuvue.
   22. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 27, 2012 at 09:03 AM (#4089946)
Keppinger was great at Georgia. He was on the 2001 CWS team and took Prior deep in Omaha.

Supposedly Brandon Phillips was visiting Georgia and told the coach he wanted to be the starting shortstop. The coach said something to the effect that he'd have to wait for Jeff Keppinger to leave. Phillips went straight to the draft out of HS so I have no idea if he was seriously thinking about college, but he grew up in Stone Mountain and was a big fan of UGA.

Phillips and Keppinger ended up being teammates on the '07-'08 Reds. Keppinger looked really good in that first season, spraying line drives all over the field (123 OPS+; 2 WAR in 67 games). IIRC he had knee surgery that offseason and didn't hit well at all coming out of the gate.

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