Baseball fans on the East Coast have an exciting season to look forward to, with division championship races going down to the wire. That's the prediction of mathematician and Mets fan Bruce Bukiet, who has just released his forecast for the 2009 Major League Baseball season.
If Bukiet’s model proves accurate, the Western Division races should be far less interesting, with the two Southern California teams — the Angels and Dodgers — easily winning in their respective leagues. The National League Central Division also looks uncompetitive, with the Chicago Cubs finishing far ahead of their rivals.
Bukiet, an associate professor of mathematical sciences and associate dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, uses a copyrighted baseball prediction model he created. It calculates the probable number of runs a team will produce in a given game by multiplying each batter’s hitting percentage against the pitcher’s ability to keep opposing players off the bases. It also takes into account the likelihood a batter will come to the plate with runners on base.
While he has had considerable success since he began making predictions in 1998, Bukiet choked a bit in 2008, correctly picking only one division winner (the Angels in the American League West). Along with nearly everyone else, he missed the ascendance of the Tampa Bay Rays, in large part because he had no way of estimating how well the team’s rookies would perform.
He is not predicting a Rays repeat. Rather, Bukiet expects the New York Yankees to edge out the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, with 99 wins to the Sox’ 97. The Rays should win 91 games, the Toronto Blue Jays 83 and the Baltimore Orioles 68. He expects the Red Sox to enter the playoffs as the Wild Card team.
In the National League East, Bukiet’s calculations produce, amazingly enough, a three-way tie, with the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets each winning 88 games. One of those teams will win the division, while another will be the Wild Card team. The Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals will trail with 73 and 67 games, respectively.
“The model has been quite accurate with the Mets over the past few years, with the Mets slightly underperforming and the Phillies slightly overperforming,” he said. “If that repeats itself, it would spell another season of final-game heartbreak for Mets fans.”
The American League West looks to be a blowout, with the Los Angeles Angels winning 92 games. That will place the Anaheim-based team far ahead of the Texas Rangers and Oakland As, with 71 wins apiece, and the Seattle Marriners, with 65. The Los Angeles Dodgers also are headed for the playoffs, taking the National League West with 91 wins compared to 83 for both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, 78 for the San Francisco Giants and 76 for the San Diego Padres.
The Cubs will have another opportunity to humiliate themselves in the playoffs, as they should dominate the National League Central with 97 wins. The St. Louis Cardinals will win 85 games, the Milwaukee Brewers 82, the Houston Astros 80, and Cincinnati Reds 75 and the Pittsburgh Pirates 60.
The Cleveland Indians look to finish first in the American League Central Division with 88 wins, compared to 83 for the Minnesota Twins, 79 for the Chicago White Sox, 78 for the Detroit Tigers and 71 for the Kansas City Royals.
“These results give a guide of how teams ought to perform during the season. But there are so many unknowns, especially concerning trades, injuries and how rookies will perform that cannot be taken into account,” Bukiet cautioned.
“However, over the years, the predictions (using this mathematical model) have been about as good as those of the so-called experts. It demonstrates how useful math can be in understanding so many aspects of the world around us.”