Tag: MLB

Many people say that there’s magic in the air during October baseball, but what really makes that “fall magic” happen? And what does it look like?

To first answer the question of what this fall magic looks like, consider Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, which from an outsider’s perspective went down in history as one of the greatest baseball games of all time. As Skip Schumacher (a Cardinals outfielder who was on the winning side of the game) put it, “This is the best game I’ve ever been a part of, ever seen.” The Texas Rangers may have been the only ones who did not see the game through the same “best game” lens that late October night. Up two runs and one strike-out away from winning their first ever championship – twice – the Rangers could not seal the deal. They had chances in the 9th and 10th innings to close the game, but the St. Louis Cardinals erased those multiple two-run leads and walked off in home run fashion in the bottom of the 11th. That’s fall magic.

The World Series – a.k.a. “The Fall Classic” – which involves the champion representatives from the American and National Leagues in Major League Baseball has long been titled America’s pastime. Although slow to the plate in comparison to the three other major league sports in the US, (pun intended) the MLB has instituted instant replay these days. Managers (or the umpire crew chief) may now issue a challenge during a game to review a variety of game time calls and situations. However, one of the things managers are not allowed to review is the home plate umpire’s call of balls and strikes, which undoubtedly has the greatest impact on how each game is played. The call of balls and strikes is just one of the things outside the control of this year’s Fall Classic participants, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Additional factors and distractions are endless (home field advantage, crowd noise, weather, the opposing pitcher, the manager’s decisions, etc.) and can all influence the final score. Moreover, all of these factors fall outside the control of the players. With both the Cubs and Indians waiting so many years for the opportunity to win the Fall Classic, tensions are high as is the susceptibility of the players to focus on factors outside of their control. We know that focusing on what is within their control (“controllable factors”) instead of what is not (“uncontrollable factors”), will likely have a positive influence on the ability of the players to regulate their emotions, and ultimately, their performance during the World Series.

To answer the original question of what makes “fall magic” happen, we should consider the importance of these controllable and uncontrollable factors. Looking back to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, was the Rangers’ closing pitcher (who was one strike away from helping his team win its first ever championship) thinking about the ultimate outcome of the game (uncontrollable)? Was his focus perhaps shifted from what he was doing (controllable) to how fans or teammates would react to his potential game winning pitch (uncontrollable)? It’s very likely. When the Rangers were up again by 2 runs and 1 strike away from winning the World Series in the bottom of the 10th inning, the whole team had likely shifted their focus from what was within their control to those things outside of their control.

Although there are many factors that likely went into the Cardinals being able to come back and win Game 6 (and ultimately the World Series in Game 7), accounting for controllables and uncontrollables within the game was likely crucial to both teams’ performances. Replay or not, bad umpiring or not, freezing temperatures or not, one strike away from winning the championship or not, the Indians and Cubs will want to focus on what they can control in this year’s Fall Classic (such as their Attitude, Preparation, and Effort) to give themselves a better chance of performing at their best and creating that fall magic.

Play ball.



At 3:00pm CST today, many MLB players will exhale a sigh of relief. The July trade deadline will have passed, and players won’t be worrying if they’ll be sleeping in a different city tonight. For fans, trades are exciting—many of us become glued to Twitter and MLB Trade Rumors tracking the numerous transactions. We want to see who is going to make the biggest push for October. As Rays’ pitcher Chris Archer recently tweeted, “If anyone wants to know what it looks like to be all in, check out the Jays.” (Toronto has been just one of many teams moving players around the league.) For players, trades bring anxiety. While the quick trades are fun to follow, we sometimes lose perspective that trades quickly uproot players’ lives.

Now, trading is a part of the game and makes for late summer runs for a few teams, but with the ever-expanding platforms of social media, players are affected by rumors more and more often. Take the Mets’ Wilmer Flores, who thought he was being traded when he received an overwhelming round of applause as he stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning. With many news outlets, including the New York Times, reporting that high-ranking team executives were leaking a trade of Flores to the Brewers, word spread like wild fire around Citi Field. Flores, now 23, was drafted by the Mets on his 16th birthday and had been with them ever since. He was visibly upset on the field, wiping away tears on his sleeve as he took the field in the top of the eighth. After the game when Flores was addressing the media, he said he was upset because he would have had to leave his teammates and the only organization he has ever known.

Once players are traded, they have to move their families, find new homes, and start anew in a different city. While all teams have personnel to help make the transition as smooth as possible for players, it’s still an emotional process that could always use more assistance. Players move the minute they’re traded and go play for another team; their families are the ones who have to deal with the stress of moving or not moving (which can leave months of being away from husbands/fathers). While trades have been and will be apart of sports always, a new method of coping around the trade deadline may be needed.



This past Monday, eight of the greatest home run hitters in Major League Baseball took the stage in Cincinnati for the Gillette Home Run Derby. Featuring a new format with a clock and head-to-head competition, this derby had the most action and excitement since its outset. The night made for a great story as Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds—the hometown guy—won the title. In their bracket set-up, a total of seven head-to-head competitions took place, in which the guy who hit second won all but once. While one may argue that the reason for the second batters’ high success rates were due to those batters being higher seeds, we cannot neglect the power that comes with watching your competition.

Now, think about it. In this competition, all you need to win is to just get one more home run than your opponent. If you bat second, you know what number you need to hit in order to advance to the next round. As the four minutes wound down, each of the sluggers knew exactly how many more they had to hit, and therefore knew whether they needed to press or had time to relax and wait for their pitch. As those four minutes passed, the second batters’ stress levels fluctuated much more than the first batters’ did. The first batters were charged with hitting as many pitches as they could, while those who batted second had to hit a specific number to stay in the game.

In economics, this scenario is referred to as the “second-mover advantage,” which means that Company X just entering a market has an upper-hand over those already in the market because Company X has the all-seeing eye. Company X has watched the market develop and knows the strategies of every other company. Therefore, they can tailor their product to one-up every other product already in existence. The same is true in sport—if you know what your competitor has done, you know exactly what you need to do in order to beat them. You can now formulate a strategy with more knowledge than your opponent had. You now have a strategy your opponent didn’t have. You have the upper-hand.

The next time that you’re in a situation where you want to go first to just get it over with, like giving a presentation at school or playing a scrimmage at practice, volunteer to go second instead. That way, you’ll see what you’re up against and can devise the best way to come out on top, just like six of the seven rounds of the 2015 Home Run Derby.

To learn more about the business and economic side of the second-mover advantage, check out this post from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.