Triple Crown Watch

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It’s getting awfully close to the end of the season. As the Generals get ready to take on the Biloxi Shuckers Friday night, there are just 25 games left before the playoffs. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good time to put Tyler O’Neill’s fantastic 2016 in context.

As of now, the Canadian slugger leads the Southern League in two of three Triple Crown categories: his .305 average and 86 RBI. His 20 home runs are just one shy of Daniel Palka for the league lead, but Palka has been in Triple-A for more than a month.

So O’Neill has a pretty good shot to win the Southern League Triple Crown, a feat that has only been accomplished once in the circuit’s history. Mike Reinbach of the 1972 Asheville Orioles is the only hitter to do it. That was also the first year the Southern League had two divisions, to show how far back that was.

Lets take a look at where Tyler O’Neill stands right now in the context of the Southern League and in franchise history. He is slated to set some team records, dating back to the Diamond Jaxx move to Jackson in 1998.

Home Runs: O’Neill currently ranks second in the Southern League with 20 long balls. He is one off the league lead, but the aforementioned Daniel Palka is now in Triple-A. O’Neill should pass him. Kevin Cron could mount a challenge, as he currently is just one behind O’Neill with 19.

The franchise record for home runs is 27, set by Mike Wilson in 2008. That is certainly within shouting distance should O’Neill get hot over this final month.

Runs Batted In: This is where Tyler has the safest lead in. Currently, O’Neill has 86 RBI and is 10 clear of Mississippi’s Dustin Peterson. Kevin Cron has 72. So long as O’Neill keeps playing consistently and the men in front of him keep getting on.

This is also O’Neill’s best shot at breaking a franchise record. With 25 games left to play, he already ranks third. Alex Liddi is second all-time with 92 in 2010 and Julio Zuleta holds the top spot with 97 in 1999. A couple big games, and O’Neill would find himself atop all alone.

Average: O’Neill has benefited from some guys no longer being eligible to qualify for the batting title. Right now, he’s the only hitter with enough at-bats hitting above .300. Through 107 games, he is batting .305. That’s impressive on it’s own, but more so when you consider he hit .260 last year in the California League.

He probably won’t set the franchise record in this department. Ezequiel Carrera, currently with Toronto, hit .337 for the Diamond Jaxx in 2009. O’Neill could crack the top five, as Micah Hoffpauir’s .306 mark in 2004 ranks fourth and Ryan Theriot is fifth with a .304 average in 2005.

Assuming Tyler at least stays within shouting distance of the league lead in all three Triple Crown categories, he has a fantastic shot at winning the league’s MVP award. I can’t imagine someone else winning the award, as O’Neill has put up the best numbers in the circuit while playing for the best team. The only MVP winner in team history is Richard Lewis in 2004.

Speaking of records, the team has an awfully good shot to have the best season in franchise history. The Generals have 73 wins with 25 games left to play. The Mariners-era record is 79 in 2012, and the all-time record is 84 wins for the 1999 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.

So, the takeaways here are that Tyler O’Neill is awesome and so is the 2016 Generals team as a whole. Here’s to them keeping it up.

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