Observation of behavioral principles in baseball performance
Irving, P. Gregory
Master of Arts
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Three studies were done to demonstrate that formalized sports can be used to test or observe the operation of psychological phenomena. Major league baseball was chosen as the representative sport, in part because of the completeness of its data record. In the first study, the notion that positive affective arousal enhances performance on certain tasks was tested with respect to a player's birthday, an event presumed to generate a positive affective state. Sixty-two major league baseball players, whose birthdays fell between April and October and who were active between 1970 and 1982, were selected from the Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (1982). Their performance on their birthdays were extracted from boxscores of games listed in the New York Times during the years stated. Finally, their batting performance on their birthdays was compared to their overall batting performance during the years in question. Results suggest a trend toward the existence of a birthday effect, however, this trend does not achieve statistical significance. The second study involved the application of territoriality theories to baseball. Numerous studies have demonstrated that teams playing on their home field win significantly more often than the visiting teams, an effect which is often marginally significant in baseball. Therefore, focusing on extraordinary physical feats, this study attempted to determine whether and to what extent a relationship existed between no-hitters and home field setting. All no-hitters pitched since the turn of the century were examined to determine if such a relationship existed, using a chi-square goodness of fit test. Results suggest that territoriality does exist when using no-hitters as a measure of peak performance. The home field advantage seems to increase as the superiority of performance increases. The final study involved the extension of personality theories to baseball performance. Following a recent finding of an inverse relationship between pitching control and longevity, the present study attempted to determine if a similar relationship prevailed with respect to fielding performance and longevity. The lifetime fielding averages of 155 deceased former major league baseball players, who played a minimum of five years between 1920 and 1930, were correlated with their age at death. Results suggest that no such relationship exists. However, a trend toward a relationship between the lifetime fielding average and age at death of catchers was evident. It is possible that it is the consequences of one's mistakes that are related to longevity since pitchers and catchers are arguably the two most important players on a baseball team.