Atlantic Economic Journal

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 261–274 | Cite as

Pressure and the ability to randomize decision-making: The case of the pickoff play in Major League Baseball

  • Jim Downey
  • Joseph McGarrityEmail author
Original Paper


In mixed strategy games, the ability to randomize decisions is a critical strategic necessity, yet studies show that such rational behavior is sometimes elusive. This paper examines mixed strategy play in a natural setting, by looking at a pitcher’s decision to throw the ball to home plate or to throw it to first base in a pickoff play. In the absence of significant pressure, we find that pitchers can effectively randomize their sequence of choices to remain unpredictable, as mixed strategy Nash equilibriums require. However, in the face of pressure, some pitchers are less able to randomize their choices. Our paper is the first empirical study in the English language literature to find that decision makers are unable to randomize their strategic decisions when they face an increased cognitive load due to pressure.


Pressure Mixed strategy 


D91 Z2 


Supplementary material

11293_2019_9631_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Atlantic Economic Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management Information SystemsUniversity of Central ArkansasConwayUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Central ArkansasConwayUSA

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