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Baseball's Chief Geek Picks 2010 Winners

Cardinals Twins

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Julio Lugo tries to tag Minnesota Twins' J.J. Hardy who steals second base in the second inning of a spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Tuesday, March 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and baseball's other greats have barely begun spring training, but a mathematician from New Jersey already knows what kind of season they'll have. 

And if you're a Mets fan, never mind what Yogi Berra said. It's over and it ain't even started yet. The Amazin' Mets will come in third in the NL East, according to Bruce 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.

But that's not really so bad: Bukiet predicts 82 wins for his beloved Metsies -- a solid improvement over the 70 the team won last year.

Bukiet bases his predictions on a mathematical model he developed in 2000, one that 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.

The professor claims to have beaten the odds in six of the eight years he's been using the model. According to his predictions, the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers should all repeat as winners in the National League, with the Atlanta Braves taking the wild-card slot.

In the American League, the New York Yankees should blow away the competition, winning in the East, and the Minnesota Twins will repeat as winners in the Central. But the AL West is too close to call, with all four teams within 5 wins and the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim expected to win 82, 81 and 80 games respectively. As for the wildcard, Bukiet says it's a tossup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox from the East.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will repeat as the worst NL team with 66 wins, and the Cleveland Indians will win 67 for the most futile effort in the AL.

Bukiet predicts the following records for each team in the Major Leagues:

AL East: Yankees – 103-59; Rays – 93-69; Red Sox – 92-70; Orioles – 71-91; Blue Jays – 70-92.

AL Central: Twins – 92-70; White Sox – 85-77; Tigers – 74-88; Royals – 72-90; Indians – 67-95.

AL West: Rangers – 82-80; A's – 81-81; Angels – 80-82; Mariners – 77-85.

NL East: Phillies – 90-72; Braves – 88-74; Mets – 82-80; Marlins – 76-86; Nationals – 72-90;

NL Central: Cards – 91-71; Cubs – 86-76; Brewers – 78-84; Reds – 74-88; Astros – 73-89; Pirates – 66-96.

NL West: Dodgers – 88-74; Diamondbacks – 85-77; Rockies – 84-78; Giants – 80-82; Padres – 77-85.

Bukiet also applies his mathematical modeling to gambling, in particular for understanding baseball and cricket. He posts his analysis online at www.egrandslam.com.

"I publish these numbers to promote the power and relevance of math," he says. "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."