Do Baseball Teams Get Dragged Down By Jet Lag?

From SABR member Lewis Pollis at on May 21:

It makes sense that the visiting team wouldn’t look its sharpest after a long flight, especially if time-zone changes are involved. But is it actually true? I compiled a list of every away game the Cleveland Indians played in 2009 and 2010—a full season’s worth of games—along with how many runs they scored and allowed; how far their destination city was from Cleveland; and how many time zones they crossed en route (I tested only away games to eliminate the sample bias of home-field advantage).

I then ran the correlations between the game-based variables (wins, runs scored, and runs allowed) and the geographic ones (miles travelled and time zones crossed). If jet lag plays a major factor in teams’ performances, we would expect the correlations to be negative.

The correlations for all six combinations were very small, but the most surprising part was that the Indians actually played better the farther they travelled. The correlation between wins and distance travelled was .029, while wins and time zones crossed had a correlation of .093.

Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and even if it did, the relationships are too weak to be significant—wins/time zones had an R2 score of .009, while wins/miles came out at just .001. The effect on offense was even smaller: both the runs scored/miles and runs scored/time zone R2 scores round to 0.000. Still, the evidence contradicts the idea that jet lag makes an impact of any significance.

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Originally published: May 23, 2011. Last Updated: May 23, 2011.