Baseball is a mental game (everyone knows that), but ultimately, it doesn't make that much sense. After the Milwaukee Brewers' 5-3 victory yesterday over the New York Mets, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder sat down with each other and discussed the desire to switch positions in the batting lineup in order to mirror the lineup that Ned Yost sported for much of last year. At the beginning of the year. Yost switched up the lineup by putting Fielder in the three hole and Braun in the clean-up spot, with the thought that teams will be less likely to try and pitch around Fielder with Braun behind him. Additionally, Braun's power numbers are absurd and most of his hits are doubles, leaving first base open for teams to intentionally walk Prince. Furthermore, Braun has good speed and Yost wanted to let him steal some bases. If he takes second, they would then pitch around Prince. But the idea hasn't really worked out. Don't get me wrong, it was a good one, and it should have paid off for Yost. Instead, Braun is batting a whopping .229 and has yet to take a walk this year in 48 ABs, while Fielder is batting a miserable .244 and has yet to hit a homerun. As a result, Prince and Ryan asked hitting coach, Jim Skaalen to request they get flip flopped in the lineup so they could be more comfortable.
For baseball players, comfort is the key. However, I don't understand what's so different about batting third or fourth in the lineup. When you get up to the plate, you're not thinking, "Oh man, I'm batting fourth and Bill Hall's behind me so he's going to pitch me a curveball first." Every player plays to their strengths and attacks their opponent's weakness. With the exception of the position before the pitcher, batters consider the pitcher's tendencies and patterns as they start their AB. And in all honesty, your position in the lineup really doesn't matter except for in the first inning when you know exactly what the situation will be. If the first inning goes 1-2-3, now the four hitter is the leadoff guy, so essentially you bat in every position in every game.
But that's not how it works. Guys get into it so mentally they actually psyche themselves out before they even get to the plate. And this is a mindset that makes it difficult to succeed. I don't mean to bring up a sore subject for anyone, but a perfect example was last week's National Championship game when the Memphis Tigers blew a big lead in just two minutes of play. My theory? At some point one guy thought, "Oh man, I'm so tired." And once you say that, you can no longer focus. This thought plagues you, infects your ability and turns you into a pile of goo, ultimately leading to some missed free throws and the biggest let down in school history. For baseball players, the thought is usually, "Man, I have no idea what this is going to do," or "There's no way they're going to throw me strikes with this guy behind me," or "I haven't had a dinger yet." And ultimately, their whole approach at the plate is absolutely mangled. The mental block has them swinging at bad pitches or overswinging on good ones.
It's ridiculous, but that's why these guys are professionals. They have talent and can overcome 90% of these mental challenges. Those who can overcome more than that become special players and those who can't, fall apart. Ultimately, the most difficult part about baseball is its snowball effect. Every at bat adds to the anxiety and the 'plague' that I referred to above. It's at this point where even more strength is needed to overcome, or in the case of the Brewers, a quick change to make yourself feel more comfortable. Don't be surprised if it works, especially for Prince, who tends to start and stop on a dime.