Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Pitchers and the Spotlight Effect

May 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Mental Side, Pitching

If you ever took a psychology course then you probably know that there are many things that can impact how we perceive the world around us.  Quite often our perceptions are flawed as a result.  Concepts like confirmation bias, the fundamental attribution error, and hindsight bias are just a few of the things that humans can suffer from which lead us into faulty or incomplete views of our world.  Another one is called the spotlight effect.

The spotlight effect is the the phenomenon whereby people think they are being noticed by others more than they really are.  Here is an example.  A high school kid is having a bad hair day and can’t seem to tame a few strands of hair on top of his head.  He cringes every time he looks in the mirror.  He leaves the house miserable because he is certain that everyone at school will notice the hair that is out of place.  In reality, nobody notices it at all.  But to him, everywhere he goes he believes there is a “spotlight” shining down on his head making his hair noticeable to everyone.

In baseball, pitchers can suffer from this as well.  Here’s is a story how.

You go to the mound and quickly realizes that your command is not what you had hoped.  Every time the catcher sets up outside, you throw it to the inner half of the plate.  You are extremely frustrated because you know that if your command is not good, opponents will tee-off on you.  You begin to lose more confidence in the 2nd and 3rd innings and now cannot find the strike zone at all. Your lack of confidence causes you to nibble at the plate and you fall behind most of the batters.  Your pitch count becomes too high and the coach takes you out in the 4th inning.  You are now beside yourself with frustration and anger.

After the game, you run into a friend on the other team.  The friend says that they were so lucky that you left the game so early because “you were dealing” early in the game.  He explains that all the hitters were worried because you were killing that inside corner early in the game.  You were not giving them anything to hit out over the plate and they thought they were in for a long day at the plate.

In the story, the pitcher mistakenly thought that his lack of command was noticeable to everyone and therefore was “certainly” going to lead to bad things.  In reality, only he and his catcher were aware.

Pitchers often forget how hard hitting really is.  This faulty perception in all its forms lead them to get away from the basic principles of successful pitching – work quick, throw strikes, change speeds, and move the ball around.

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