Major League Baseball’s 2018 World Series is approaching quickly. Every year, 30 teams in the United States of America and Canada compete in 162 games to decide who will play in the World Series. Ten teams can advance to the World Series and the favorites have already started to emerge before we even reach the All-Star break. Let’s take a look at these teams and their mental health to see which one has the mental edge.
The Houston Astros are the 2017 World Series Champions, which is the first World Series in the team’s 56-year history. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a thrilling series by winning four games to three. The series matched the hype and the drama that arose in the 2016 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.
Every champion knows that you need a touch of luck or even destiny to claim the greatest prize. They may need luck to repeat as World Series Champions since no teams has repeated since the New York Yankees in 1999 and in 2000.
This fact is unsurprising. Across all professional sports and international competitions, there are few teams and athletes that repeat as champions. Kreiner-Phillips and Orlick (1993) studied 17 World Champions and among those that repeated as champions, they tried find reasons for their continued success.
For the Houston Astros, they will need to continue to believe in their ability to win the World Series in 2018. By winning the World Series in 2017, the Houston Astros can compete once again for the World Series in 2018. They have not lost one major contributor from last year. In fact, they have added to their stellar rotation by acquiring Gerrit Cole in the off-season from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now, they have the strongest starting rotation in the Major Leagues based on a 2.92 ERA that is 0.50 points lower than the next best rotation – the Chicago Cubs. Offensively, they are less potent than the Boston Red Sox but they are still among the league leaders in important categories such as most runs scored/game, most home runs, batting average (1st), on-base percentage, low strikeout rate, and high walk ratio. Without a doubt, the 2018 Houston Astros can rightly believe in themselves.
The second reason for continued success is that they must remain positive and work hard at achieving their goals. So far, the 2018 Houston Astros have a win-loss record that will get them into the postseason. They are 30 games above .500 meaning that they should win their division and qualify immediately for the postseason.
Even individually, Alex Bregman is surpassing all expectations. If there is one concern, it is All-Star short-stop Carlos Correa and his health. One concern is the slumping George Springer however he hit a spectacular home run at this year’s All-Star game.
The final reason provided by the mental health researchers about repeat champions is that players must maintain their best performance focus consistently. Most teams fail to defend their title for this reason.
To this writer, best performance focus means vigorously keeping relevant feelings and thoughts throughout each moment.
Best performance focus is difficult to maintain since the pressures of winning affect players. They may focus too often on the 2017 World Series meaning that their attention is no longer on the present. If they continue to think about the 2017 World Series and that they are the champions, they may feel satisfied – taking away the visor needed to make things happen at the plate, in the field, or on the mound.
Best performance focus is difficult to maintain because players may expect to win the 2018 World Series. Thoughts about the 2018 World Series is another distraction, which can affect performance in each moment. Proof that this exists since they have lost a few series to sub .500 teams including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays. It is worth adding that they have also beaten each of these teams handedly.
In all, the 2018 Houston Astros have a great opportunity to repeat as World Series Champions. History is a great teacher and the experiences of repeat champions could help them appreciate the opportunity before them and deliver their best performance focus.
Kreiner-Phillips, K., & Orlick, T. (1993). Winning after winning: The psychology of ongoing excellence. The Sport Psychologist, 7(1), 31-48.