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Could game time affect a baseball player's at-bat success?

Here's something that should grab the attention of Major League Baseball teams (including my beloved, offense-challenged San Francisco Giants): A small study presented yesterday at SLEEP 2011 hints that the natural sleep preference of professional baseball players may be affecting their batting averages. After surveying 16 players from seven MLB teams, including the Giants, Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center researchers found that:

...players who were "morning types" had a higher batting average (.267) than players who were "evening types" (.259) in early games that started before 2 p.m. However, evening types had a higher batting average (.261) than morning types (.252) in mid-day games that started between 2 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. This advantage for evening types persisted and was strongest in late games that began at 8 p.m. or later, when evening types had a .306 batting average and morning types maintained a .252 average.

Lead author Christopher Winter, MD, emphasized that the data was not statistically significant, due to low subject numbers, but the numbers do show a trend and warrant future study. And:

"These results are important as they create an entirely new way to look at athletic talent," said Winter. "Currently, selecting a player for a game situation usually involves factors such as handedness, rest, and possibly previous success against a certain team. Now, the time of day in which the game is occurring and a player's chronotype might be a wise factor to take into account."

Via Booster Shots
Photo by Pierre-Olivier

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