It’s in the algorithm: Extremely tight races in Major League Baseball chase this year

Researchers using math models to predict 2013 baseball, NCAA men’s basketball champs

Perhaps not surprisingly parity is coming to Major League Baseball this season if you believe the mathematical analysis of a researcher at New Jersey's science and technology university, NJIT.

NJIT Associate Professor and Associate Dean Bruce Bukiet used what he called "mathematical analysis" to compute the number of regular season games each Major League Baseball team should win.  In a nutshell, Bukiet 's model computes the probability of a team with given hitters, bench, starting pitcher, lineup, relievers and home field advantage winning a game against another team.

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"The numbers indicate that only one game might separate the first and second place teams in both the National League's (NL) East and West divisions, with the Atlanta Braves (94 wins) edging out the Washington Nationals (93 wins) in the East and the Los Angeles Dodgers (88 wins) coming in just ahead of the San Francisco Giants (87 wins) in the West. Even in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals (90 wins) don't have much breathing room, winning that division by a projected 3 games over the Cincinnati Reds (87 wins). The Braves, Nationals, Cards, Reds and Dodgers should make the playoffs, while the Giants miss by a single game."

In the American league, Bukiet says thinks could be even tighter.  "While the Detroit Tigers should have the best record in baseball (102 wins) and run away with the Central division, with the next best team (the Chicago White Sox) more than 20 wins behind, the other two divisions could end up in ties. In the AL West, Bukiet has the Anaheim Angels and the Oakland Athletics tied with 92 wins each, while in the AL East, he says there could be a 3-way tie.  The guru predicts that the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees all will win 87 games. Such results would mean that the Tigers, Angels, and Athletics would make the playoffs, while the other two teams to make the playoffs would be from among the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees or Texas Rangers, all whom the model show come in at 87 wins."

Bukiet didn't go out on any limb by saying the New York Mets, should win the same number of games (74) as they did last year nor that the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros should be the league's worst teams. And he could be stretching it to say the Pittsburgh Pirates should finish with a losing record for the 21st year in a row - as many other experts see them as being at least somewhat improved this year. 

Bukiet bases his predictions on a mathematical model he developed in 2000. He has made revisions over the years. His results have led to back-to-back wins for himself in 2010-2011 as predictions champ at baseballphd.net.

Last season Bukiet's mathematical model picked only six of the ten post-season teams (including the Tigers but not the Giants - who ultimately own the World Series).  He did say that his performance was still comparable with many experts in the field.

Bukit isn't the only research into predicting sporting outcomes.  Joel Sokol, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Industrial & Systems Engineering released his annual attempt at predicting the Final Four in college basketball's March Madness bracket.  This year Georgia Tech's Logistic Regression/Markov Chain (LRMC) computerized college basketball ranking system said third-seeded Florida will walk out as the national champion. LRMC  has chosen the men's basketball national champ in three of the last five years.

The LRMC predicted that Florida, Louisville, Indiana and Gonzaga would most likely to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta, with Florida and Gonzaga playing for the title on Monday, April 8. That of won't be happening as Gonzaga was upset by Wichita State. Florida as of this writing is still in it.

It's the first time in the LRMC's 10-year history a team that isn't a number one seed is picked to win the title.

The school last year presented a paper that shows the LRMC has been the most accurate predictive ranking system over the last 10 years. The model outperformed more than 80 others, including the NCAA's Ratings Performance Index (RPI), the system most experts use to justify who should and shouldn't get into the tournament.

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