Fans of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox won't be happy to hear what Bruce Bukiet has to say about their teams' chances in 2015.
Every year, the math professor and associate dean at New Jersey Institute of Technology uses mathematics to predict the final standings of the Major League Baseball season before spring training has even wrapped up. His outcome predictions get down to the nitty gritty, including number of wins and losses.
His vision for this year doesn't look good for the Bronx Bombers or the Sox, both of which he believes are going to finish below .500.
"It's really kind of funny," Bukiet said of his dire predictions. "There are a lot of Yankee fans in New Jersey and I'm not getting it from them. They are actually surprised that I have the Yankees winning this many games. With the Red Sox fans I have spoken, they also aren't surprised."
Bukiet started using mathematical models he developed in the 1980s in an effort to get students more excited about math. But over the past 18 years, the project has gone well beyond the classroom. He helps run a gambling analysis website, eGrandslam, where his daily picks have beaten the odds nine of the past 14 years, and he has been the predictions champ on the site baseballphd.net three of the past five years. He tied for first another year.
"You rarely get a team exactly right," he said. "But when I compare my standings with what really happens, I seem to come out in the top 15 percent of the projections by sports writers each year."
To come up with the numbers of wins or losses, Bukiet takes the projected lineups of each team and uses the past performance of players to assess how many singles, doubles, triples, home runs and walks the team will get against the opposing team's pitcher. He also takes into consideration home field advantage and the strength of a team's bench.
Before the start of the 2014 season, Bukiet correctly predicted that Detroit would go on to win the American League Central, the Dodgers would win the National League West, St. Louis would win the Central and Washington would win the NL East.
Red Sox fans will be happy to hear that despite an overall accurate assessment last year, Bukiet is not infallible. He predicted Boston would win the AL East and Baltimore would finish last. The exact opposite happened.
And there is always chance. He can identify average strengths in a team for the season but his model won't pick up that game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth.
"The consolation for the Yankees or Red Sox is that the the division is really up for grabs," he said. "Three or four games either way is part of the randomness of the whole system."
For this season, Bukiet's model says that the big winners will be the Seattle Mariners, who are projected to finish first in the American League West, the Detroit Tigers, who will top the AL Central and the Toronto Blue Jays, who should come out of the AL East. The Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland A's should be the wild card teams.
In the National League, the Washington Nationals are projected to finish tops in the East with the best record in baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals are projected to finish first in the NL Central while the Los Angeles Dodgers should repeat as winners of the NL East. The 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets should be the wild card teams.
"As a Mets fan, I am very excited that the model has them making the playoffs," he said. "I haven't expected them to make the playoffs for quite a while."
The supposedly resurgent Chicago Cubs will disappoint again as will the basement dwelling Minnesota Twins.
Here are Bukiet's full predictions: