I recently was at a baseball game where one of the pitchers just seemed to lose all control of his pitches. One went behind a batter. Another sailed over the catchers head. A few more where in the opposite batter’s box from the batter. For 7 straight pitches nothing was even remotely close to the strike zone.
Before the 8th pitch was thrown, which was for a strike, my mind instantly went to the thought that this pitcher has ‘The Yips.’
Want to scare a player really bad? All you have to do is start talking about ‘The Yips’ around them.
Outside of injuries, there is nothing scarier for a player then to get the yips. It happens all the time. Players young and old, from little league to the Major League level suddenly and unexplainably develop a mental block of some sort that stops them from throwing a strike or making simple throws like to 1st base.
In the movie Major League 2 it is joked about as the teams catcher, Rube Baker, isn’t able to throw the ball back to the pitcher. He can throw to 2nd and 3rd just fine but the simple toss back to the pitcher he can’t do.
Just like in any amazing baseball movie the player figures out how to overcome and the Indians make the playoffs. However, in real life things aren’t always that easy.
The first was Chuck Knoblauch. Knoblauch was a 4 time all-star, Rookie of the Year winner, and even received a Gold Glove award. However, for a time in his career he had the yips. Throwing the ball to first base was an adventure for Knoblauch. Fans in the stands were just as likely to catch a throw to first base as the first baseman was.
A second case of the yips that I saw in my life time was by one of the top young pitching prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system. Rick Ankiel came up as a highly touted pitching prospect. In 2000 Ankiel took 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting and had a great season. Then came the 2000 NLDS and in one inning he threw 5 wild pitches. From that point forward he wasn’t the same as a pitcher. He was able to return to Major League Baseball as a solid outfielder but his pitching career was essentially over.
What causes the yips? Is it just a lack of focus; is it a mental block, stress or something else? No one really knows but to a baseball player they can mean the end of a career just as easily as an injury.