When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year — ending their 71-year drought — many fans considered the triumph an end of the “curse of the billy goat,” a purported hex put on the team that thwarted their success for generations.
However, the win may have had more to do with a jet-lagged Dodgers pitcher than with a decades-old jinx, according to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Led by circadian rhythms expert Dr. Ravi Allada, a team of Northwestern University researchers analyzed 20 years’ worth of Major League Baseball data to determine the effect of jet-lag on ballgames between 1992 and 2011. If players crossed two or more time zones before a game, without having much time to sleep or adjust, they were considered jet-lagged; that amounted to about 5,000 of the 40,000 games the researchers studied.
Here are some surprising stats: eastbound teams lost more often — and players “hit fewer doubles and triples, stole fewer bases and grounded into more double plays” — than when they were not jet-lagged, according to ESPN.
Of all the players, pitchers and base-runners seemed most affected by the time change: when eastbound pitchers were jet-lagged, they allowed, on average, one home run per every 10 games. Additionally, home teams (say, returning from a streak of away games) were more affected by jet lag than visiting teams, thereby undermining the idea of a “home field advantage.”
As for why traveling east seems more detrimental to performance: the study “supports the hypothesis that observed effects are due to a failure of the circadian clock” — the human body’s natural cycle that’s informed by light — “to synchronize to the environmental light-dark cycles and not due to general travel effects.”
For peak performance, Allada recommends, teams should send their pitchers out to the games a few days ahead, allowing them to rest up and adjust to the time difference.
Read more about the study on Northwestern Now.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com