Andrew McCutchen is having a fantastic season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Projecting his statistics over the course of a 162 game season provide comparable numbers to those posted by Barry Bonds during his NL MVP campaigns in 1990 and 1992.
He, along with a fantastic pitching staff, are the reason Pittsburgh is 11 games over .500 and lead Cincinnati by 1 game in the NL Central through the first half of the season.
McCutchen was a Florida high school star and was chosen 10th overall by Pittsburgh in the 2005 draft. He breezed through rookie and Class A ball with relative ease. He was a natural talent, the kind of player Pirate fans have been eagerly awaiting since 1992.
Suddenly, in 2007, he hit the wall.
Early that year in AA he wasn’t able to connect and he entered what was the first slump of his career, hitting under .200 and struggling mightily at the plate. How could someone with so much natural talent suddenly lose it so quickly?
Fortunately for McCutchen, there was a hitting coach (Gregg Ritchie) in the Pirates system who took notice of flaws in McCutchen’s swing a year and a half prior to when his struggles began. Instead of jumping in and trying to correct his swing, the organization decided to wait. Ritchie prophesied that the flaws in his swing would eventually catch up with him, and that would be the time to present McCutchen with his findings.
Having never experienced any sort of setback with his baseball career, McCutchen was eager to delve into the observations that Ritchie had made. As with anyone who yearns to improve their performance, he listened to Ritchie’s advice and made the recommended adjustments to help modify his swing. The rest, as they say, is history (well, it’s obviously still being written).
As my experience as a trader has grown over the years, I have come to realize that there are significant parallels between athletic performance in sports like golf and baseball with trading. Obviously, there is a significant level of natural talent required to attain levels of success in any of these fields. However, what separates the average from the above average from the great is repeated practice/exposure and mental flexibility/toughness when times are not going well.
When we are nailing trades left and right, superficially, our strategies do not require analysis or tweaking. Shit is good, money is flowing and we have all the answers.
When things go south and our ideas and trades fall apart one after another, how do we confront that harsh reality? Suddenly, we don’t know everything. Our ideas aren’t quite so brilliant anymore.
Do we say “fuck this, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I was successful in the past and I’ll continue to be successful in the future”?
Or, is a more prudent approach to try and diagnose our flaws and devise a strategy to overcome them through hard work and focus?
I may be relatively young (33), but I have been involved with developing a trading strategy since 1998 (though at the time, I wasn’t remotely conscious that I was in the early stages of this process). I don’t know much, but one thing that I have learned about trading, and can say with absolute certainty, is that the opportunity to be humbled is constantly lurking, waiting to strike.
Every trader (just like every golfer and baseball player) will go through slumps. It’s part of the game and experience.
Success (ESPECIALLY early success) can be poisonous. Once we proclaim to have things “figured out”, that’s when we get slapped upside the head with a steaming pile of humble pie.
We need to constantly evolve to meet the dynamic nature of the markets and, even more importantly, our own psyche.
Ultimately, a critical question that every trader needs to address is: “how will you handle your next slump?”
It’s coming…trust me, it’s coming.
Lastly, if anyone is interested in receiving unfettered and objective analysis with the sole purpose of improving trading performance (pro bono, of course), feel free to email me at: artbuguse at gmail dot com. Coaching and performance psychology is my passion and I would love to share that enthusiasm with the good readers here at iBC.
My best to you all.
Reference for the McCutchen bit was obtained here.