Are personal statistics friend or foe for baseball players?
What is more important for you: personal statistics or team wins? In your heart you may want to answer team wins, but a large part of you is probably focused on personal statistics.
It is understandable to be are focused on personal statistics. Baseball or softball is a game where every play is broken down into some kind of statistic.
In this era of analytics, data of every type is collected and collated to evaluate the performance of hitters, fielders, baserunners, and pitchers over the course of every pitch in every game.
Pitchers are measured by statistics such as: (W-L%) win-loss percentage, (SO9) strikeouts per 9-innings pitched, (BB9) bases on balls per 9-innings, (ERA) earned run average, (WHIP) walks plus hits per 9 innings, etc.
Hitters have their share of statistics as well: (BA) batting average, (RBI) runs batted in, (HR) homeruns, (SLG) slugging percentage, (OBP) on-base percentage, etc.
Games are both a means to gather information as well as to make game-time decisions to give your team the best chance to win.
Since your performance is constantly being measured throughout a game, it is difficult not to focus on statistics. Many ballplayers are driven to improve their stats to achieve seasonal goals or milestones and increase their amount of playing time throughout the season.
The Positive Side of Statistics
Statistics can help motivate a player to improve their play and take their game to the next level.
- Statistics are an effective method to measure and analyze your performance.
- Statistical goals can keep you motivated to work hard throughout a long season.
- Statistics give you something to shoot for.
The Negative Side of Statistics
There is also a downside to statistics. The over-focus on statistics can lead to increased pressure and anxiety.
- You may feel like you are constantly under the microscope by your manager.
- A bad game is likely to hurt your confidence.
- Your expectations become excessively high or unrealistic, “I only struck out three batters last game. Now I need to strike out nine hitters this game to maintain my average.”
- Not every play shows up on the stat sheet. For example, you are a runner on first base. You are taking a big lead causing the pitcher to focus more on you than the hitter who eventually is thrown an easy pitch to drive down the line.
Balance is critical for a player to positively impact a game. Having statistical targets can keep you motivated, but leave that stat focus on the practice field. During games, maintain a focus on how you can positively impact the game and help your team win.
Let’s look at an example of balance in MLB… Twenty-five year-old Cleveland Indian pitcher Shane Bieber tied the MLB record for strikeouts in the first two starts of a season. In two games, Bieber has two wins, gave up no runs, and struck out 27 batters in 14 innings.
Yet Bieber is not focused on strikeouts at all. Bieber is focused on getting hitters out. Bieber’s statistics are merely a by-product of his approach.
BIEBER: “I think [teammate Carlos Carrasco] said it the other day, ‘We like to strike guys out.’ That’s what we’re going for. Obviously, we’re trying to put up zeros and get the ‘W’ first and foremost, but if we can get some strikeouts while we’re at it, that’s always fun too.”
If you look to play your best in every game situation, the stats will take care of themselves.
Mental Edge Tip:
One strategy to shift from a statistical game focus to a performance game focus is to write down a statistical goal you have for the game on a piece of paper. When you get to the game, look at that paper and rip it up.
This little strategy will help remind you to focus on the game at hand instead of your personal stat line.
If you have any questions regarding Brain Timing or Mental Game Coaching, please contact Dr. Demetrios Patos at: [email protected]