Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Feeling the Yips

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a serious dilemma on their hands. 3B Pedro Alvarez has committed 22 throwing errors already this season. Pedro has developed an inability to make seemingly routine throws to first base. This bizarre affliction is called focal dystonia, or more commonly known as the “yips”. The condition is so terrifying to baseball players that they often refer to it as the “The Monster”. It ended the career of former Pirates pitcher Steve Blass. Steve Sax and Mark Wohlers eventually recovered from the condition. Other players such as Rick Ankiel and Chuck Knoblauch had to change positions to escape it. Perhaps that will ultimately be what Alvarez needs to do. It has long been thought that due to Pedro’s size and eventual decrease in mobility as he ages, he would end up transitioning to 1B later in his career. Maybe the yips will hasten that transition. Unfortunately for the Pirates that is a tough thing to do in the middle of the season. The Pirates are already carrying a pair of 1Bs on the roster in Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis. Not to mention there is at least some what of a learning curve to playing a new position. The future for Pedro might be at 1B, but it is more likely the Pirates will keep him at 3B for now and try to manage the issue and hope Pedro can get it under control. That won’t be easy.
I’m not going to profess to know everything about the yips, but I do know a thing or two about them. I have experienced the yips, and I’ve never completely gotten over them. I played baseball in college and then afterwards I played men’s sandlot baseball for more than a dozen years. I never once had an issue throwing the ball in a game. But I can’t throw batting practice. It is absolutely frustrating. One pitch will land three feet in front of the batter and the next will wind up behind the hitter. I have been asked to help coach youth teams and I have turned them down because I know I can’t throw BP.
Last year I found another place where the yips have manifested. I took an umpiring class and joined my local amateur umpire association. In the first inning of my first game behind the dish I go to throw a new ball to the pitcher after a foul hit out of play. The ball wound up 15 feet over the pitcher’s head. I felt two inches tall. It is still a mental block for me. Now I almost always hand a new ball to the catcher. It is frustrating, it is embarrassing, and it eats at me. I have to imagine those feelings would be a thousand times worse for a professional athlete playing in front of huge crowds with millions more watching on television. I feel for Pedro. I know this is maddening. I hope he can tame the monster.

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