Play Ball, Not Bits


by Tim Moran

Once Christmas and the Super Bowl are over, winter has very little left to offer. So nothing gladdens this old heart more than hearing that pitchers and catchers are reporting for duty and that baseball season in only a long fly ball away.

One hundred and sixty-two games, plus playoffs and the World Series, and we've slid all the way into November. And the beauty is, each game is different; you have no idea how it's all going to turn out.

But wait! What's this?

It's all been decided already?

That's what Bruce Bukiet predicts, according to a New York Post article.

Bukiet is an associate professor of mathematical sciences and associate dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.:

{He]bases his predictions on a mathematical model he developed in 2000, which computes the probability of a team winning a game against another team with given hitters, bench, starting pitcher, relievers and home field advantage. For this season, Bukiet has refined his algorithm slightly, incorporating a more realistic runner advancement model. Whatever that is.
His take on the American League has the blow away the competition in the East, the Twins repeating in the Central, and a four-team dogfight in the West.

Really? You mean I don't have to stay up until two in the morning watching those Yankees games from the Coast to see how they fare against the Angels? I don't have to set up my radio next to the BBQ so I can listen to the game while I grill some steaks of a Sunday afternoon in August?

This Sultan of Stats "claims to have beaten the odds in six of the eight years he's been using the model." While there's a gambling angle to the professor's algorithmic activity, there's also some seriousness: "I publish these numbers to promote the power and relevance of math," he said. "We've long had a problem convincing U.S. youngsters to embrace mathematics in school. Studying how math applies to baseball demonstrates not only that math can be fun, but how it is really a part of things people care about."

Perhaps. We just hope that such fun mathematics don't lead to the cry of "Play ball!" being replaced by "Boot up!"

That'd make for a long and dull summer.