Skip to main content

Mathematician Predicts Rays to Win World Series

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price reacts after defeating the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to win the American League baseball championship series in Game 7 in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. (Image credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Tampa Bay Rays have a more than a 50-50 chance of beating the Phillies in the World Series, a mathematician predicts.

Bruce Bukiet of the New Jersey Institute of Technology uses mathematical modeling techniques and player stats to study scoring in baseball and make annual predictions of which teams will win the most games during the regular season. Bukiet's picks have beat the odds for five of the last seven years, though his 2008 season predictions were off.

Now Bukiet has applied his models to predict who is most likely to win the 2008 World Series, which begins on Wednesday in Tampa.

His model gives the Rays, who beat the Red Sox on Sunday night to clench the American League Championship, a 59 percent chance of victory. The most probable outcomes will be a Rays championship in six games (a 20 percent chance) or the full seven games (19 percent chance), he says.

"I'm sure my friends who are Phillies fans are not happy about these numbers," Bukiet said.

Bukiet's method uses each player's 2008 season statistics to model runs in baseball games.

The same approach can be used for predicting how many games a team will win in a given season, the expected influence of trades and whether or not to wager on a game. Bukiet has used this model for the past eight years.

Updates on the chances of each team winning the 2008 World Series based on the outcome of each game and changes in prospective starters will be posted on Bukiet's Web site.

Bukiet also recently released his recommendations for the 2008 MVP and Cy Young award winners: Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays got the recommendation for the American League MVP and Cy Young, while for the National League, Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals got the MVP recommendation and Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers got the Cy Young rec.

Andrea Thompson
Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.