Today is the celebration of the iconic ‘success’ – the ‘home run’. The ‘Home Run Derby’ kicks off the major league baseball All-Star break. Which should possibly also be a celebration of the similarly archetypal failure – the ‘strike out’. The biggest sluggers are also often the biggest wiffers. Babe Ruth not only set a home run record, he set a strike out record as well.

As it happens, those moments of failure are on the increase in baseball as described in USA Today’s piece “Winning with Whiffs.” It highlights the benefits of embracing a strike out as well as offering some coaching tips on how to do it best…

  • “Strikeouts are up across baseball…They’ve been climbing steadily for five years. But does anybody care? ‘I’m swinging at strikes, which I’m happy about,’ Cleveland Indians DH Mark Reynolds says. That sentiment, from the man who has epitomized where the strikeout is going in baseball, pretty much sums up the debate. Anybody can strike out. It’s how you do it and what else you do that makes the difference. Nobody makes contact less often than Reynolds, who has led his league in strikeouts four times, including a season-record 223 in 2009, and was part of the Arizona Diamondbacks who set the team record in 2010. ‘That’s what he has,’ Indians manager Terry Francona says. ‘He’ll miss sometimes, and then he’s a game-changer. You’ve got to be patient. You know he’s going to run into some.’ ‘When you have a lineup with guys with an abundance of strikeouts, you end up hoping for a big inning; you have a chance to score maybe two or three times during a game,’ says Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who set out a couple of years ago to purge his team of its record-setting ways. ‘With lots of strikeouts, you become a streaky ballclub,’ he says…Home runs and strikeouts are two of what have come to be known as baseball’s ‘three true outcomes,’ results of a time at-bat that the defense can’t impact. The third is the walk. Striking out more accepted Jim Thome hasn’t retired, though he’s not with a team this season after 22 years in the majors. He ranks second all time in strikeouts and seventh in walks. He also was the product of the first generation of power hitters told to not cut down their big swings just because they had two strikes. He understood he was paid to hit home runs. ‘If you hit strikes, good things will happen,’ he says. ‘I truly believe that.’..Still, the overall major league strikeout rate — 20.7% of all plate appearances this season — continues the trend of increases every season since 2008’s 17.5%.’We accept strikeouts more,’ says Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.”
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