The Toronto Blue Jays are a young, confident bunch who believe they could surprise everyone but themselves
The Toronto Blue Jays will be very good in the next couple years. They may even be good in the context of this 60 game 2020 season. If you ask the players, they believe they can be. We continue to hear how confident this group is and we are seeing that confidence from the front office as well. It would appear that there is an increased confidence about 2020 that may not have been there before, at least not to the degree it is now. The question is how much that can impact their performance.
When players play with confidence, they tend to perform better and we hear Buck Martinez say things like, “Boy, he’s sure playing with a lot of confidence right now”. And, conversely, it is very obvious when a player has lost said confidence. Think of a pitcher on the mound who knows he’s getting shelled but has to stay in because it’s only the second inning and his bullpen is tired. The look on his face makes it very clear that confidence is lost and the next pitch he throws very well could leave the yard as a result.
However, there is no metric or number we can point to and say ‘Player X is showing this much confidence and it is resulting in this many runs above average’. So, it often gets overlooked when talking about a player or a club’s success. I wanted to see if the belief the Blue Jays have in themselves could potentially impact their 60 game run.
I found the following study: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF CONFIDENCE TO ENHANCING SPORTS PERFORMANCE by
Athanasius N. Amasiatu at the Department of Human Kinetics and Health Education, University of Port Harcourt. There has actually been a lot written and I encourage those interested in the subject to look further.
According to Amasiatu, confidence in sports can be thought of in this way: “Based on recent advances in the study of sport confidence by sports psychologist, Manzo and Silva (1993) developed a theoretical model for sports confidence. This model is based on three underlying constructs: dispositional optimism (having positive attitude), perceived control (the belief that an expectancy is under one’s control) and perceived competence (the degree to which one believes that he or she can successfully fulfill the demands of a sport situation). ”
Of particular interest to this conversation is the last two constructs: perceived control and perceived competence. A positive attitude can be such a personal trait, but can also be impacted by outcome as much as anything else. The other two are things that, in theory, can be taught. If the Blue Jays coaching staff can offer up sessions where players can see how their actions directly impact an outcome, they will begin seeing the control they have. Some players may already have this ability, thus the confidence, but during a slump, it can be easily forgotten.
It is the perceived belief in their own ability that is interesting. A few years ago, I spoke with Bo Bichette on the JFtC Podcast and he talked about being the starting shortstop in Toronto, but some guy named Tulo was in his way (my words, not his). It was a glimpse into the confidence he had even then- the confidence that he would (not could) be in the big leagues. The great players know that they’re capable of succeeding, even in a slump, which mitigates the impact of said slump.
It would be a mistake to think that these players are simply born with the confidence needed to succeed. In fact, it is earned. Amasiatu writes, “The truth is that the high self-confidence seen in outstanding athletes is not an accident or a random occurrence over which athletes have no control. Confidence is the result of a consistently constructive thinking process that allows athletes to do two things: a ) Hang on to and thus benefit from their successful experience, and b) let go of or de-emphasize their less successful experience.”
In baseball, this is what people mean when they talk about a starter ‘shaking off’ a rough start or a closer blowing a save and needing a ‘short memory’. For Toronto, in such a short season, this becomes even more important. Avoiding prolonged slumps, which could impact confidence, will be the job of Charlie Montoyo, who will have to be able to use his creativity to adjust lineups according to matchups, putting his players in a position to succeed. He’ll likely also need to rely on his history of working with young players. Again, GM, Ross Atkins thinks that this is in Montoyo’s wheelhouse. At least publicly, there is confidence that this situation suits Montoyo just fine. How much will that confidence impact the end results? Time will tell.
One of the challenges Montoyo will face is in those slumps is having to work to ensure his players don’t succumb to ‘Learned Helplessness, which Amasiatu says ‘could come from an athlete’s inability to accurately assess their own abilities and therefore not see their impact on negative results.’ It’s when an athlete says, “I’m doing my best and it’s not working” that a team will run into trouble. Think back to that pitcher on the mound and how alone and lost they must feel when they don’t have their ‘stuff’ and can’t get it back.
No doubt, the Blue Jays front office pours over data and metrics to better inform their players and help them improve. When players succeed, the team succeeds. Taking in information and applying it could result in increased confidence. But, lost confidence could negatively impact the reception of that information. It is a balancing act, to be sure.
The Blue Jays boast some of MLB’s best young talent. The young core believes in themselves and the organization is liking their chances in this short season. That is not to say they will be in the playoff hunt, but in a year where anything could happen, should they rule it out? Would that make them sound cocky? It’s not cocky, if you can back it up with results, is it?
“The modern trends in sports psychology have demonstrated that athletes with a high degree of confidence perform better in a variety of sports than those that lack confidence. Also one of the most consistent findings in the peak performance literature is the significant correlation between self-confidence and successful sporting performance” – Athanasius N. Amasiatu
In baseball, there is no way to measure confidence other than to see athletes performing well. For the Toronto Blue Jays, time will tell if their belief in themselves will pay off. But, if their current confidence is any indication, this should be a rather fun season, short as it may be.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.