The Psychology of Baseball: Inside the Mental Game of the Major League Player, by Mike Stadler ISBN 9781592402755
Four out of five stars
The late, great philosopher Yogi Berra is credited with many utterings that on the surface appear nonsensical, but after some thought are found to contain significant truth. One of the most famous is “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” Clearly, the numbers do not add up, yet this saying does point out how significant the mental components are.
In this book Stadler makes a great effort to demonstrate and quantify how much one’s mental state determines how well you play. Baseball is full of sayings and tactics taken as true, yet some probably are not accurate. Some of the examples examined are hitting in the clutch, what causes slumps and hot streaks, and when a player must think and when it is best not to.
The best example of when not thinking is preferable refers to infielder Chuck Knoblauch. Like some other infielders, he suddenly began committing a series of throwing errors. Oddly, most of the errors were on routine ground balls where he had plenty of time to set his feet and throw. By having the opportunity to think a bit before throwing to first, Knoblauch reaches a mental state where his fear was in making a throwing error, which turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Some of the more interesting passages refer to Ted Williams and his approach to hitting. He truly was dedicated to the science of hitting, some of the best advice you can ever get on how to perform at the plate is to read William’s work on the subject. Some of the thought processes that Williams claimed as steps in his success are covered in this book. Of course, it is always difficult to transcribe and apply the approach of the incredibly talented to others that cannot measure up.
This is a good book about the subtle and sometimes apparently insignificant differences in mental state that make the difference between someone being a star or spending no or insignificant time in the major leagues.