Choking is the psychological and/or physical reaction to heightened expectations, even when those expectations are warranted due to, say, a 97-win regular season. Choking stifles even the best hitters and can be partial or complete, with partial choking allowing some—although inadequate—gasps of offense. Prolonged or complete choking results in a failure to advance in the postseason.
Choking can be caused by:
*The unexpected reintroduction of a slumping player into the everyday lineup. Said player struck out three times and left four men on base on Thursday. See "Kosuke Fukudome."
*Uncharacteristic starting pitching performances by two 14+ game winners in two must-win games. See "Ryan Dempster" and "Carlos Zambrano."
*An NLDS record-tying four fielding errors on one's home field. See "Mark DeRosa," "Derrek Lee," "Ryan Theriot," and "Aramis Ramirez."
*A leadoff hitter batting .111 this postseason. See "Alfonso Soriano."
*An "untouchable" 1-2 closing combo giving up three runs in their first postseason appearance together. See "Carlos Marmol" and "Kerry Wood."
*A superior opponent with a seasoned postseason manager and roster. See "L.A. Dodgers," "Joe Torre," "Derek Lowe," and "Manny Ramirez."
Choking, if caught early enough, can usually be treated by shuffling the lineup or a momentum-changing play.