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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Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson (homered in all three games against St Louis to become MLB's home run leader / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

You Can’t Beat The Clock

The study found that teams flying west didn’t have as significant an impact as flying east, and recovery for teams traveling east took one day per time zone crossed. George Dvorsky summarized the effects of Gizmodo in 2017. (Emphasis added is mine.)

"…if a team traveled from Los Angeles to New York City (cities separated by three time zones), players (are) considered jet-lagged on the first and second day after travel…"

George Dvorsky

The paper and Gizmodo post (it’s much easier to read) include evaluations of everything batters and pitchers do- at-bats, every flavor of hit, walks, strikeouts, etc.

Home Team Disadvantage?

Both teams crossing two time zones while traveling toward the sunrise gave up more runs, but the team returning home gave up more than a visiting team making the same trip.

Home teams crossing two time zones to get home saw their slash line drop, but a visiting team making the same trip did not.

"The most striking effect of jet lag was on poor defensive performance, exemplified best by home runs allowed … An increased tendency to give up the long ball was seen among eastward travelers (but not westward travelers), and in both home and away groups."

George Dvorsky

Researchers calculated that giving up more home runs negates any home-field advantage a team might have; they dubbed this effect the jet lag disadvantage.


Allada, Song, and Severini couldn’t point to a reason why the visiting team didn’t suffer in the same way as the home team. They suggested that when a team hits the road, they focus on their schedule more than when they head home. 

I think they’re missing the obvious answer. After living out of a suitcase, working until past midnight at varying altitudes and under varying weather conditions, and being on your best behavior at all times, heading home causes everyone to subconsciously exhale.

They can sleep in their own bed or on the couch, sit around in a t-shirt and jeans, and wander into the kitchen and grab a snack when they want.  They come to the field ready to play but aren’t quite in high gear. Pitchers don’t have a feel for the ball and can’t figure out why. Batters swing and miss a pitch and wonder how that happened. Sure-handed defenders make a late throw or bobble the ball. Then the fog lifts, and suddenly, you’re back to normal.

That’s a Wrap

If you watched all three games, you’d have noticed a difference in the way the Atlanta Braves played in game three as opposed to games one and two.

I’m surprised that teams don’t send the first two starters home in time for them to get back in synch before the homestand, but they don’t. Jet lag isn’t an excuse, it’s a fact of a player’s work life, and there’s no way to eliminate it until Scotty and his transporter become a reality.