Study: Jet lag limits baseball’s home field advantage

In this Sept. 19, 2015, file photo, after a 12-inning first game, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout yawns on the bench prior to taking the field against the Minnesota Twins for the second game of a baseball doubleheader in Minneapolis. Researchers say they’ve documented an unseen drag on major league baseball players that can wipe out home field advantage, make pitchers give up more home runs, and take some punch out of a team’s bats. The culprit: jet lag. AP Photo/Richard Marshall, File.

There may be less of a home field advantage in baseball than many fans think, and jet lag may be the reason.

A study of baseball players, who spend most of their summers in different time zones, finds that traveling eastward is more disruptive than going west. But it also found that home teams suffer more than visiting teams, the Associated Press reports.

Much of that was found in baserunning, according to a news release from Northwestern University.

“The effects are sufficiently large to erase the home field advantage,” Dr. Ravi Allada said of the study, which showed home teams returning from a road trip are particularly susceptible.

“If I were a baseball manager and my team was traveling across time zones — either to home or away — I would send my first starting pitcher a day or two ahead, so he could adjust his clock to the local environment,” Allada said.

The researchers used Major League Baseball data from 1992 to 2011.

Next season, baseball will usher in changes to player travel as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The season will be extended by four days and the league will limit the number of consecutive games played in different cities.

Allada acknowledges to being a Chicago Cubs fan, a team that traveled east for Game 7 of the World Series and beat the home team.

(h/t: Paul Tosto)