Throughout this mediocre Red Sox season so far, pretty much any time the somewhat slumping Rafael Devers managed to get a decent hit someone on NESN or WEEI triumphantly would crow about his return. Then the slump would reassert itself.
I’m going to return here to something I flagged last August: Devers’ ongoing inconsistencies are linked to his self-regulation.
Let me repeat my disclaimer: I am not arguing that Devers is autistic or elsewise neurodivergent. Self-regulation is a common human activity, especially circumstances of routine, even daily, stress. It’s a healthy act of managing focus and resources.
I’d already been thinking a lot about that previous post, and when a NESN broadcaster mentioned today that in the last nineteen games Devers was hitting a whopping .205, I decided to sit down and look at some numbers. I’m not a stats guy, so I’m just going to look at the batting average.
|Pre-All Star 2022||.324|
|Post-All Star 2022||.249|
|June 2023 (so far)||.250|
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: Devers loves the start of a season and he loves the end of it. There’s likely something about the overall energies and his own adrenaline in those periods that feeds his regulation. Also important to say up front: Devers is a natural, innate talent, and that’s going to surface now and then no matter what.
As I’ve suggested, though, the issue is the consistency or lack thereof. When you look at the past two years, his batting averages outside of the first and last months is noticeably problematic after July of last year.
There’s only one thing that’s different after July of last year: Rafael Devers stopped talking to himself at the plate between pitches.
It’s true: I believe that someone or something got in his head about that self-regulatory behavior and it made him stop engaging in it. There’s no way to know whether it was someone overtly telling him to knock it off, or if it was something less direct. Maybe we’d know if anyone else, anywhere, had noticed this change and its potential correlation to his performance at the plate and asked about it.
As far as I know, no Boston sports journalist has written about the fact that he’s stopped self-regulating, let alone about whether or not it’s had an affect upon his batting average.
Someone on NESN or WEEI during these recent doldrums even tried to convey some excitement that Devers might be taking more walks. Walks? The very substantial contract he just got wasn’t for taking walks. Whoever or whatever caused Devers to stop self-regulating serves only to undermine his value as a hitter.
It’s okay to self-regulate, whether you’re neurodivergent or not. We should talk about it more, and we should support it more.
Maybe someone was making fun of him for it. It was never entirely clear whether sportscasters were amused by it in a healthy or unhealthy way. As someone who is neurodivergent, though, I just wish that whatever or whoever made Devers stop self-regulating would make up for it and correct the mistake.
Just let Devers be Devers.
One bit of clarity I want to provide. My interest here is as a lifelong Red Sox fan and as a midlife-diagnosed autistic. It’s true that Devers himself does not need to be neurodivergent to self-regulate, but as an autistic I’m aware of how self-regulation can be viewed as unpalatable or disruptive by normative standards.
Many an autistic kid has been ridiculed or bullied for their self-regulatory behavior, so any situation in which self-regulation in anyone might possibly have been tamped down without warrant should be resisted, to set a clear example.
I can’t know. Absent someone asking the Red Sox whatever happened to Devers talking to himself between pitches, we can’t know. It just seems to me like there’s a connection, and it’s going to nag at me, and we need to make public self-regulation a normatively acceptable thing.
I guess you could say that I feel like sportscasters are really good at spotting trees. They herald any hit as a return to form, yet also toss out stats like “the last 19 games”. No one seems to take a step back from the trees to discren if there’s a forest.
That said, it’s also true that I’ve sometimes suggested that having been selected by evolution for our storytelling capacity, we can be so good at finding patterns, which are necessary for survival, that we can go overboard.
It’s possible that the forest I’m claiming to see in fact and instead is fictional. I just wish we had a way to tell for sure.