Most of you know already that EXACT Sports puts out a lot of research on player development, performance, and sports statistics. Earlier today I was going through some of our internal research and came across a gem of an analysis we did on college baseball players. EXACT has been working in high school baseball player and college baseball player development for over a decade now, so sometimes I forget about some of the interesting findings we’ve uncovered in the past.
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So there I was, sifting through papers my storage cabinet, and I came across one that our science team wrote from our work with half a dozen collegiate baseball programs back in 2005. The college programs worked with us to help develop their players’ mental strengths. What all of the coaching staff had faced (and which is one of the most common challenges in college baseball recruiting) is that despite the intensive baseball recruiting process, many of the high school players still didn’t come equipped with the right characteristics to succeed in college ball. It’s no surprise that playing college baseball is a lot different than high school baseball. There are different demands, pressures, and mental skills required.
So, EXACT Sports used its behavioral and mental tools to help understand the behavioral characteristics (mental toughness, confidence, competitiveness, motivation, coachability, etc.) of each team’s players and help the coaches identify opportunities to improve their players. The culmination of our player development work was an internal study we conducted on the data. What we found is, in hindsight, pretty intuitive but still rather interesting:
The college teams’ worst pitchers had the worst impulse control. This isn’t just some observation of ours that we made up out of the blue or observed with our naked eye. This was based on our statistical analysis and the results of our behavioral evaluation tool, the Competitive Athlete Psychological Inventory. The numbers tell a clear story: of the pitchers that EXACT evaluated, we found that a whopping 83% of them with a 4.0+ ERA had poor impulse control, as measured by our tool.
Poor impulse control can lead to poor pitching.
I’ll summarize with a last thought. For those high school pitchers who want to someday play college baseball, keeping your composure under pressure and managing your impulses is more important than you may think. I’m sure that you already understand this intuitively, but looking back at this research from several years ago, it’s very informative to see it presented this way. I think if you want to know how to play baseball in college, the first step is going to be learning how to keep your composure and discipline.