Did Jet Lag Cause the Braves to Drop Their Recent Series with the Cardinals?

Why, after a West Coast swing where the Atlanta Braves won eight of ten games and outscored their opponents 60-35, did they return to Atlanta and promptly drop two games to the last-in-the-NL-Central Cardinals, who also outscored the Braves 22-12? Blame jet lag.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried righted the ship Thursday, pitching the Raves to victory over St Louis.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried righted the ship Thursday, pitching the Raves to victory over St Louis. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Jet lag seems more akin to an excuse than a reason. I told someone on whatever we’re supposed to call Twitter these days that the Atlanta Braves looked flat all around.

The Atlanta Braves Worst Losses

It’s true we scored six runs in each game but being brutally honest, this year’s Cardinals aren’t good enough to hang those numbers on the 2023 Braves unless Atlanta is simultaneously bad at pitching and hitting.

Here are the games where the Braves were whipped badly.

  • April 9 – Padres 10-2 in Atlanta: Dodd started, Padres were tied for first in the NL West 
  • July 9 – Rays 10-4 in Tampa: Elder started, Rays led AL East by two games
  • August 21 – Mets 10-4 in Atlanta: Winans started

Arizona beat Atlanta 16-13, and the Reds beat us 11-10 in Cincinnati, but the bats kept us in the games, and the bullpen gave up the lead in both.

Then there are the two losses to the Cardinals this week. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Cardinals, they did what an experienced team does when the opposition gives them an opening, converted most extra outs into runs, and crushed bad pitches.

However, we swept the Cards at Busch in April, outscoring them 17-7, and the Cardinals' season went downhill from there. So, what happened? I’m glad you asked.

Who Studies this Stuff, and How?

In January 2017, Northwestern University sleep scientists Ravi Allada, Alex Song, and Thomas Severino published How jet lag impairs Major League Baseball performance. 

Their study looked at 20 seasons of data (1992-2011) covering 46,535 games to evaluate the effect of jet lag on Major League players, looking at every batting statistic and accounting for the park factors and home-team tendencies involved.

When examining the data, the team defined jet lag as crossing two time zones to play a game, which meant a Braves trip to Colorado or Los Angeles was considered a jet lag trip, but a flight to Chicago wasn’t.