The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels will easily walk away with the playoff spots for the American League, while the National League will once again see a tight race to the postseason.
So predicts Bruce Bukiet, a mathematician at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who uses a mathematical model he developed in 2000 to make annual predictions of which teams will win the most games during the regular season.
His model computes the probability of a team winning a game against another team with given hitters, bench, starting pitchers, relievers and home field advantage.
Bukiet's picks have beat the odds for five of the past seven years, though his 2008 season predictions were off.
Surveying the season
Here's how Bukiet has the season playing out in each league's division for this year:
The contest in the AL East should go down to the wire with the Yankees winning 99 games to the Red Sox's 97. With the two best records expected in the Major Leagues this season, both teams should make it to the post-season, one as AL East winner and the other as the AL wild card team.
The defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays should take third place with 91 wins. Bukiet used his model last year to predict the outcome of the World Series and gave the Rays more than a 50-50 shot at winning. However, the Philadelphia Phillies won the best-of-seven game contest after Game 5.
In the AL Central Division, the Indians should win 88 games to the Minnesota Twins' 83, while the Angels should win AL West by a whopping 21 games with 92 wins while the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics can expect to win 71 each.
Meanwhile, in the NL East, the model has the Mets (Bukiet's favorite team) missing the playoffs on the last day of the season.
"The model has been quite accurate with the Mets over past few years with the Mets slightly underperforming and the Phillies slightly over performing," Bukiet said. "If that repeats itself, it would spell another season of final game heartbreak to Mets fans."
The model has the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies tying in the NL East, with 88 games each.
In the NL Central Division, Bukiet's model calls for the Chicago Cubs to win 97 games, 12 more than the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Pirates should win just 60 games, the least in the Major Leagues.
"In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers should win 91 games, while the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks tie for second place, 8 games back," Bukiet said.
Of course, there are many uncertainties involved in the predictions.
"These results are merely a guide as to how teams ought to perform. There are many unknowns, especially trades, injuries and how rookies will perform," Bukiet said. "Over the years, the predictions 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."
- Video: How to Throw a Split-Finger Fastball
- Mind Games: What Makes a Great Baseball Player Great
- The Science of Sports