Those predictions can then be translated into team statistics that feed into his Opening Day predictions of the teams most likely to play into October.
Bertsimas and O'Hair, one of his PhD students, put their own spin on techniques Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane used to guide the team with the third lowest payroll in major-league baseball in 2002 to that year's playoffs. In addition, the duo drew on approaches developed by baseball-stats guru Bill James.
While much of the credit for pioneering the extensive use of player stats has gone to Mr. Beane and the Oakland As, the approach has a deeper historical pedigree, according to Dr. Devlin, who teaches at Stanford University.
The Brooklyn Dodgers used some number-crunching as far back as the 1940s and '50s, he explained in a column for the Mathematics Association of America penned in 2004, just after he attended his first major-league ball game. Managers used the data to inform player trades, set batting orders, and to swap players in and out of rosters based on their performance against opposing teams.
Earl Weaver's stack of index cards
During Earl Weaver's 14-year run as manager of the Baltimore Orioles beginning in the late '60s, the Hall of Fame manager frequently consulted player stats he kept in a ubiquitous stack of index cards, according to Devlin.