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Fatigue Affects Baseball Players' Strike-Zone Judgment: Study
Date:6/4/2013

TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Major League Baseball players may be struck out by fatigue as the 162-game season progresses, according to a new study.

In 24 of 30 teams, players' strike-zone judgment was much better when the season began in April than when coming to an end in September. A separate study found a significant link between sleepiness and MLB players' longevity in the league.

The findings recently appeared in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Baltimore.

"Plate discipline -- as measured by a hitter's tendency to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone -- got progressively worse over the course of a Major League Baseball season, and this decline followed a linear pattern that could be predicted by data from the six previous seasons," principal study investigator Dr. Scott Kutscher, an assistant professor of sleep and neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release.

How does sleep deprivation tie into to this worsening performance?

"We theorize that this decline is tied to fatigue that develops over the course of the season due to a combination of frequency of travel and paucity of days off," Kutscher said.

The researchers tracked how often MLB batters swung at pitches outside of the strike zone during the 2012 season. They sorted the data by month for all 30 teams and compared the first month with the last month of the season.

The information collected on each team was also compared to a statistical model based on the 2006 through 2011 MLB seasons, which predicted a linear decline in strike-zone judgment each month. The researchers noted that their findings contradict the belief that plate discipline should improve over the course of the season due to frequent practice.

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