Psychology Elements in Baseball

A professional baseball player, Yogi Berra, has said: “Baseball is 90% mental and other half is physical”. Psychology in baseball is nothing new nowadays. In fact, it is quite popular and amusing to many researchers, psychologists and baseball fans. Yogi Berra’s saying has been quoted many times in many topics about baseball and baseball psychology in particular. Psychology elements day by day become indispensable when talking or discussing about baseball.

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Baseball and Psychology

There have been many researches about psychology of baseball. It doesn’t accidentally become an interesting topic with psychologists and researchers. Everything has reasons. And the reasons are because of the indispensability of psychology elements in baseball. They’re heart of the sport since without them, the game can’t be well performed. They support the techniques the players use as well as being their mental health.Let’s discuss three main elements and you can see why.

Psychology elements in baseball

One element is about how people can do what are claimed to exceed human ability. One is about the mind strategy needed to do during the game. And the last one is about baseball players themselves,mental states.

Technique and Ability

Mike Stadler, sport psychologist of University of Missouri, has claimed in his book [1] that: “The physical demands of the game are intense and the physical abilities of the players, as extraordinary as they are, cannot by themselves meet those demands”. Which means the game itself requires motions exceed human physical ability.

[1] The Psychology of Baseball: Inside the Mental Game of the Major League Player, Gotham, 2007

Let’s look at three positions in baseball:

  • Pitcher:How can a pitcher control the ball with accuracy, speed and strength to get it to the catcher? It’s like hitting the center point of a dartboard. Moreover, the ball has to pass the hitter without being hit. Therefore, the orbit needs to be tricky, it can’t always be straight. Accuracy, speed and tricky orbit, that’s what a pitcher has to deal with.
  • Hitter: A ball which is thrown by a professional player can reach up to 100 m.p.h speed. Which means, it travels from pitcher to hitter in less a split second. The hitter must swing bat at the time the ball is released or else the bat can’t contact with the ball in time.  Moreover, the 100 m.p.h speed is claimed to be in degree at which beyond human vision field. So, how can a hitter hit a ball he/she can barely see in half second? Do you know how to choose the best baseball bat ?
  • Outfielder:How can a fielder know where a flying ball will land? How can he/she do that complex geometry for a result of a precise landing spot?
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Those seem impossible and are claimed to be out of human ability but people actually do it. And it is because of the combination of mental and physical.

There are theories about how baseball players do those moves. The theories are well researched and reasonable. However, most of players think because of practicing and instinct so that they can do what they do. Yogi Berra used to say: “A full mind is an empty bat”. The players try to make their techniques, motions and moves to be natural, instinctive so that they can play unconsciously. The more they think, the worse they perform. They make it natural like we scream when we’re suddenly hurt. And then they can do their best.

Mind strategy

Baseball is also mind game to the players especially between hitter and pitcher. Since the time of reaction and changing strategy is counted by millisecond, they need to guess what moves and techniques will be used by the opponents. There are many ways to do that. For instance, one can guess his/her opponent because he/she is familiar with that opponent performance or with others but that others are like him/her. They also can guess from the opponent’s last performance or from his/her moves and motions as well as take advantages of nervousness. The experience of players are essential in this practice.

Mental state

What makes a good baseball player? Babe Ruth, a professional baseball player is proved to have better sound and visual reaction than most population. He also has better hand to eye coordination. In short, his nerves, brain, ears, eyes function more rapidly than normal people. It is no surprise that other top baseball players’ physical abilities are top of population as well.

However, there’s no link proved to exist between natural talent and baseball succeeding. It is the practicing that makes the difference and the mental state. The confidence and well self-control hitter performs better. And that is no unusual knowledge. The players perform well or not base on their mental state is stable or not.

Baseball also puts a lot of pressure on the players which may affect their mental health. There were many baseball players who had mental health illness in baseball history. Those facts cannot be neglected.

 Psychology and baseball has tight and close links since the ones who practice baseball are human and psychology is one part of human. Above are three main elements of psychology in baseball. They’re all connected closely to the game itself.

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