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60-Second Science

Mathematician Says Rays Should Reign

New Jersey Institute of Technology mathematician Bruce Bukiet calculates the odds throughout each baseball postseason. And he thinks the Tampa Bay Rays are the clear favorites to take the World Series. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

The World Series starts October 22nd, with the improbable American League champion Tampa Bay Rays hosting the National League best Philadelphia Phillies. And there’s a 59 percent chance that the Rays will take the title. That what Bruce Bukiet says, anyway. He’s a mathematician at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who sets odds on the playoffs and World Series every year.

Bukiet starts with each player’s statistics for the 2008 season. He then uses a model that estimates run production per game based on those stats. His most probable outcomes are a 20 percent chance of a Rays championship in six games, and a 19 percent chance of a seven game Rays win. But beware. In the 2006 postseason only one of his favorites in the seven different series actually came out victorious. Nevertheless, he’s gotten it right in six of the last eight years. Of course, when predicting sporting events, always follow the advice of Damon Runyon, who said, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But that’s the way to bet.”

—Steve Mirsky 

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