Spring training is just getting underway for Major League Baseball, and that means it's time for Bruce Bukiet, associate professor of Mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, to make his annual predictions about the outcome of the season.

Bukiet bases his predictions on a mathematical model he developed in 2000. His model 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, he incorporated a more realistic runner advancement model into the algorithm. Operations Research published Bukiet's mathematical model several years ago.

Bukiet has used this mathematical model to determine whether it is worthwhile to wager on games during the baseball season. His picks are posted (for academic purposes only) on his website. These picks have produced positive results overall, and for six of the nine years he has posted them.

The predictions, of course, "are merely a guide as to how teams ought to perform. There are many unknowns, especially trades, injuries and how rookies will perform," said Bukiet.

Why bother modeling the outcome of baseball games? Bukiet says he hopes to combat math illiteracy. "We've long had a problem convincing US 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."

According to this seasons predictions, the Yankees should dominate the AL with players capable of winning 103 games, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays by 10 and the Boston Red Sox by 11. Tampa Bay or Boston should end up as the wild card team. In the Central Division, the Minnesota Twins (92 wins) should repeat as division winners but rather than needing to win a one- game playoff as they did in 2009, this year they should handily defeat the Chicago White Sox by 7 games.

Instead of the Angels winning the AL West as they did by 10 games last year, in 2010 we should get ready for a tight race among very average teams. The Texas Rangers should win 82 games, just one above .500, while the Oakland A's win 81 and the Los Angeles Angels win 80. The Seattle Mariners should come in last in that division just 5 games out.

While Bukiet's favorite team, the New York Mets, should come in third in the NL East, he notes that the 82 wins he expects is a solid improvement over the 70 they won in their injury-plagued 2009 season. "At least in 2009, the Mets put their fans out of their misery early on, rather than in the season's last weekend as they did in 2007 and 2008," he says.

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

His expected wins for each team are as follows:
American League

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

AL Central: Twins – 92; White Sox – 85; Tigers – 74; Royals – 72; Indians – 67.

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

National League

NL East: Phillies – 90; Braves – 88; Mets – 82; Marlins – 76; Nationals – 72;

NL Central: Cards – 91; Cubs – 86; Brewers – 78; Reds – 74; Astros – 73; Pirates – 66.

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