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Lars Anderson and “the burden of analytical thought”

Aug 7, 2013, 3:10 PM EDT


Gabe Kapler has a fascinating article up at WEEI about the mental approach of hitters. Specifically, Lars Anderson, the once cant-miss Red Sox prospect who, inexplicably, has missed. Anderson is out to sea now, having failed to fulfill his promise. Kapler tells a pretty compelling story of a kid who is insanely gifted but whose mental approach to the game has handicapped him. About how he has succumbed to “the burden of analytical thought.”

In some ways this is a longer version of “don’t think, it can only hurt the ballclub.” But Kapler doesn’t think it’s a rule. He talks about watching Anderson come up — a guy who focuses on his failures rather than his successes — vs. Josh Reddick, who has always thought he could hit anything, even if he couldn’t. Kapler talks about how Anderson is extremely intelligent but put creates mental hurdles for himself. He thinks Reddick and guys like him could do better if they thought even for a minute. There is a balance to be had. But if it’s out of balance, one presumes, it’s better to err on the side of swinging violently and thinking yourself invincible than it is to be smart but to lack confidence.

Just a fascinating read from Kapler, who does a great job of explaining a concept that is so often lost in translation between those inside the game and those outside.

  1. zakharovsa - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Craig/anyone, does this also remind you of Dirk Hayhurst’s story? Not that he was ever much of a prospect, but I got the impression from his books that he hurt himself badly by overthinking everything and being unable to move on from bad outings, thus destroying his confidence.

  2. aceshigh11 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Gabe Kapler? The Welcome Back Kotter dude?

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Welcome back,
      Your dreams were your ticket out.

      Welcome back,
      To that same old place that you laughed about.

      Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
      But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

      Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya)
      Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

      Yeah we tease him a lot cause we’ve hot him on the spot, welcome back,
      welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

  3. crispybasil - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Kapler has been killing it lately with his writing. Good stuff.

  4. KR - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Yes, this was a great article when I read it back when it was posted two weeks ago.

    Just now getting unburied from all that scintillating A-Rod coverage?

    • paperlions - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Was it better then? Did it go bad? I read it yesterday, and it was still pretty damned good then, but man, if it was better two weeks ago (at which point, it was actually yet to be published), I sure wish I had read it then. It probably just melted in your mouth.

      Oddly enough, there is a shit-ton of interesting baseball stuff published all the time via many dozens to hundreds of outlets and it is impossible for everyone to see everything when it first appears.

      • carpi2 - Aug 8, 2013 at 3:41 PM


        You always crack me up with your sarcasm. Makes these comments worth reading!

  5. schlom - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Or maybe Lars Anderson just wasn’t that good. His 2008 and 2010 seasons at Double A Portland were good but they consisted of just 41 and 17 games. At every other stop his numbers were just OK, considering his position. There was nothing in his minor league numbers to ever rank him as a top prospect other than his signing bonus.

    • bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Isn’t that the point? He didn’t pan out despite so much promise.

      • schlom - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:45 PM

        I guess my point is more that he didn’t actually have any promise – his career turned out exactly like you would expect for someone of his talents. It didn’t have anything to do with his mental approach but his lack of physical talent.

      • bfunk1978 - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        And I don’t really know one way or another. Kapler says he was talented physically, apparently you disagree. Whatevs, I just thought the point of the article was obvious

    • joestemme - Aug 7, 2013 at 7:40 PM

      Did you actually read the article? It states that he was at one point ranked 17th in all of minor league baseball. That’s a pretty high ranking, so, there were many scouts and analysts who were impressed by his potential.
      We all know that potential doesn’t equate to success, but, to say he was never any “good” misses the point.

  6. paperlions - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Kapler also has another post with a born-on-date of August 7th, that is an interesting comparison of batting practice philosophies in Japan and the US.

    Read it now, don’t be some Jhonny-come-lately.

  7. tfbuckfutter - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Does Gabe touch on why he had so much potential and turned in such a middling career?

    I don’t mean that snarkily, I am actually curious where he thinks he falls on that spectrum in light of his output.

    • paperlions - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      You’ll just have to read his stuff yourself to see how he self-identifies.

      What a slacker. Picked all the way up in the 57th round and all he dis was make it to the majors 3 years later and spend parts of 13 seasons there.

      • tfbuckfutter - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        I don’t want to read. That’s why I asked. That is the only question this blog post left me wondering, so I thought maybe someone who HAD read it could help out.

        And I didn’t say he was a slacker. I said he had huge potential that he didn’t live up to.

        He may have outperformed his draft position, but he also was one of the top prospects in all of baseball when he broke into the majors.

  8. lawrinson20 - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    I lovely article.
    I see a lot of myself in this text. Of course, i never attempted to advance past Little League, but it was only the self-esteem/confidence issues that prevented me from succeeding at higher levels. Even as i watched high schoolers succeed, and i knew i was better than them, there was the matter of my own ridiculous and unreasonable expectations which were always the more fearsome opponent. And, to this day, i struggle in the same way with aspects of life unrelated to sport. It’s unfortunate. I never sought professional help for my problem/s. I hope Lars does, though, as i’d love to see him re-emerge. And, hopefully, with the RedSox….

  9. butchhuskey - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    The article reminds me of the part of Moneyball where Michael Lewis explains the difference between Billy Beane and Lenny Dykstra in their minor league careers.

    Despite his immense physical talent, Beane never thought he was good enough to succeed and never knew how to deal with failure.
    Dykstra, on the other hand, was unfazed by failure and was so confident in his abilities that he never once stopped believing in himself.
    Baseball is an odd game because a lot of it is cerebral and strategic but if you think too much you’ll end up with paralysis by analysis.

    • butchhuskey - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:27 PM

      Anndddddd someone in the comments section for the original article said the same thing. Oops, guess great minds think alike 😉

    • abaird2012 - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      … and look at them both now.

  10. natslady - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    I wonder if that is what handicaps Drew Storen? I bet the “syndrome” afflicts pitchers easily as much as hitters. And then you have the Joey Votto types, who are as analytical as they come.

  11. drewsylvania - Aug 7, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Well, you’ve convinced me, schlom. I’ll go with your opinion instead of that of his manager and bevies of scouts.

  12. bigmeechy74 - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:57 AM

    This Lars/Reddick thing is like Billy Bean and Lenny Dykstra when they were young players on the mets. Bean over thought everything and became a mental wreck and dykstra didn’t give a damn and just played fearlessly without thinking. Then after their careers they took opposite paths. So Lars is going to be a GM and Reddick will be in prison.

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