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Do the math: Mariners destined to finish 4th

Seattle Mariners team stand at attention during the flag salute before an exhibition baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Saturday, March 30, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It’s opening day of baseball season and even long-suffering fans can say their team is in first place. Yes, even the Pirates, the Cubs, the Astros and the Mariners. But sadly, it’s likely none of those teams will finish where they started, in first place. How do we know? Do the math.

There is no sport more obsessed with numbers than baseball, and not just earned run average and fielding percentage. There are statistics for how a certain player hits during day games, on an artificial surface against left-handed pitching.

So we checked with a math professor about the Mariners chances to win in 2013.

“It doesn’t look good,” said Bruce Bukiet at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

But why? Professor Bukiet developed a formula years ago to help predict the winners and losers each baseball season. He plugs in numbers based on player performance.

“My model really uses past data, how the individual player has done for the past three years so if you have a team whose players haven’t been around for that long, it probably doesn’t reflect as well in my numbers.

That might actually be good news for the Mariners because while they picked up some veteran bats for the middle of the lineup, they do have a lot of young players on the rise.

Bukiet ran the numbers and here’s what he predicts in terms of win totals for the American League West, including the Mariners:

Anaheim 92, Oakland 92, Texas 87, Seattle 71 and Houston 56.

Now, Bukiet considers his system pretty good. He brags that he’s among the top prognosticators each year. But nobody picked the Baltimore Orioles last year, who won 20 more games than Bukiet projected.

“The Seattle Mariners would be right up there with Anaheim and Oakland so maybe there’s some hope there,” offered Bukiet.

More hope is reflected in the predictions of Dave Fleming, who writes for Bill James Online. Fleming picks his surprise teams each year and this year, it’s the Seattle Mariners, based on many factors, including the team’s second half performance last year, their young hitters and their pitching and defense. He predicts “the Mariners could get into the Wild Card race.”

And why not, on opening day, the Mariners are just one half game behind the first place Houston Astros, who opened the season Sunday night by beating Texas.

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