NJIT mathematician's 2017 Major League Baseball projections
Red Sox to eke out American League East win over Blue Jays while Indians and Astros to win American League Central and West Handily; Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers to repeat as National League division winners
After projecting 8 of the 10 Major League Baseball post-season teams in 2016 and correctly claiming that the St. Louis Cardinals would just miss making the playoffs, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Mathematical Sciences Professor and Associate Dean Bruce Bukiet has published his model's projections of how the standings should look at the end of Major League Baseball's regular season in 2017. This is the 20th year that Bukiet has applied mathematical analysis to compute the number of regular season games each Major League Baseball team should win. Though his expertise is in mathematical modeling (rather than baseball), his projections have consistently compared well with those of so-called experts.
The numbers indicate that while his favorite team, the New York Mets (92 wins) should make the playoffs, the Washington Nationals (97 wins) should repeat as winners of the National League East. The World Champion Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers should repeat as winner of the National League Central and West Divisions with 104 wins each to lead the Major Leagues. The San Francisco Giants (95 wins) should be the fifth National League post-season team. The same five teams (correctly called by Bukiet) made the post-season in 2016 and once again the St. Louis Cardinals (88 wins) should be the best team that doesn't make the post-season -- though it shouldn't be so close this time.
In the American League, Bukiet's model has the Boston Red Sox (91 wins) and American League pennant Cleveland Indians (99 wins -- best in the American league) repeating as division winners in the East and Central divisions. Bukiet once again calls for the Houston Astros (94 wins) to win the American League West. (This was one of the two projections that did not pan out for Bukiet last year, with the Texas Rangers winning that division -- the Orioles made the post-season and not the Rays as the model projected). The model calls for the Toronto Blue Jays (90 wins) and the Detroit Tigers (86 wins) to be the American League Wild Card teams. The Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees should all be 6 games behind the Tigers and this not make the post-season.
At the other end of the spectrum, the San Diego Padres (53 wins) should replace the Minnesota Twins as the team with the worst record in baseball. The Padres should win just over half as many games as the division winning Dodgers, ending up 51 games out of first place. The White Sox (64 wins) should win the least games in the American League.
Bukiet makes these projections to demonstrate and promote the power of math. He wants to show young people that math can be fun, that it can be applied to improve one's understanding of many aspects of life and that if you love mathematics, it can be a great college major and lead to a satisfying career.
Bukiet bases his projections on a mathematical model he started developing in the late 1980s. He has made various revisions over the years. His results have been noted in many publications and he has been predictions champ at baseballphd.net several times. See more results for his baseball modeling, including the projected wins for each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams, at http://web.njit.edu/~bukiet/baseball/baseball.html and at http://www.egrandslam.com.
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A new Northwestern University study of how jet lag affects MLB players traveling across just a few time zones finds that when people, in this case Major League Baseball players, travel in a way that misaligns their internal 24-hour clock with the natural environment and its cycle of sunlight, they suffer negative consequences.
"Jet lag does impair the performance of Major League Baseball players," said Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythms expert who led the study. "The negative effects of jet lag we found are subtle, but they are detectable and significant. And they happen on both offense and defense and for both home and away teams, often in surprising ways."
In a study of data spanning 20 years and including more than 40,000 games, the researchers identified these effects of jet lag on player and team performance:
- The offense of jet-lagged home teams is much more affected than that of jet-lagged away teams. Surprisingly, in terms of offensive performance, jet lag from eastward travel had significant negative effects on home teams (after returning from a road trip) and much less of an effect on away teams.
- Negative effects on offense are related to base running. The negative effects on the home team's offense were related to base running, such as stolen bases, number of doubles and triples, and hitting into more double plays.
- Both home and away teams suffer on defense, specifically by giving up more home runs. With defensive performance, strong effects of eastward jet lag were found for both home and away teams, primarily with jet-lagged pitchers allowing more home runs. "The effects are sufficiently large to erase the home field advantage," Allada said. Besides home runs allowed, few other effects were seen on pitching or defense.
- There is a difference between traveling east and traveling west. Most significant jet-lag effects were generally stronger for eastward than westward travel. "This is a strong argument that the effect is due to the circadian clock, not the travel itself," Allada said.
Allada and his team, Alex Song (first author) and Thomas Severini, used an unprecedented amount of MLB data (from 1992 to 2011), which gave the researchers the statistical power to identify the effects of jet lag on offensive and defensive performance metrics. The researchers considered if teams were traveling east or west; if the team was home or away; and the team itself.
They also looked at the number of hours players would be jet-lagged, based on the number of time zones traveled across, to determine which games were "jet-lag games" and which were not. (The human body clock can roughly shift about an hour each day as it synchronizes to the new environment.) If players were shifted two or three hours from their internal clocks, the researchers defined them as jet-lagged.
What does all this data analysis mean going forward? With MLB spring training less than a month away, Allada has some advice based on his research.
"If I were a baseball manager and my team was traveling across time zones -- either to home or away -- I would send my first starting pitcher a day or two ahead, so he could adjust his clock to the local environment," Allada said.
Allada provides an example from the 2016 National League Championship Series illustrating the potential impact of jet lag on player performance. In game 2, Los Angeles Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw shut out the Chicago Cubs, giving up only two hits, but game 6 was a different story.
"For game 6, the teams had returned to Chicago from LA, and this time the Cubs scored five runs off of Kershaw, including two home runs," Allada said. "While it's speculation, our research would suggest that jet lag was a contributing factor in Kershaw's performance."