Choking is the psychological and/or physical reaction to heightened expectations, even when those expectations are warranted due to, say, a 97-win regular season. Choking stifles even the best hitters,
and can be partial or complete, with partial choking allowing some,
although inadequate, gasps of offense. Prolonged or complete
choking results in a failure to advance in the postseason.
Choking can be caused by:
- The unexpected re-introduction of a slumping player into the everyday lineup. Said player struck out 3 times and left 4 men on base on Thursday. See “Kosuke Fukudome”.
- Uncharacteristic starting pitching performances by two 14+ game winners in two must-win games. See “Ryan Dempster” and “Carlos Zambrano.”
- An NLDS record-tying 4 fielding errors on one’s home field. See “Mark DeRosa,” “Derrek Lee,” “Ryan Theriot,” and “Aramis Ramirez.”
- A leadoff hitter batting .111 this postseason. See “Alfonso Soriano.”
- An “untouchable” 1-2 closing combo giving up 3 runs in their first postseason appearance together. See “Carlos Marmol” and “Kerry Wood.”
- A superior opponent with a seasoned postseason manager and roster. See “L.A. Dodgers”, “Joe Torre,” “Derek Lowe,” and “Manny Ramirez.”
Choking, if caught early enough, can usually be treated by shuffling the lineup or a momentum-changing play.