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Johns Hopkins Applied Math students a hit with Minor League Baseball schedulers

June 16, 2015

With the help of some Johns Hopkins University applied math students, Minor League Baseball is catching up with the majors in using computers to produce its game schedules.

Doing away with the tedious and more time-consuming method of developing schedules by hand, the students and their professors used complicated mathematical formulas to coax computers into churning out workable schedules for several minor leagues. The New York-Penn League is one of them. On June 19, the league will open its 76-game short season with a schedule produced not by hand, but computer – the first of the minor leagues to have a schedule produced entirely by students in a computer programming class under two faculty members’ direction.

The South Atlantic League has also approved a 140-game schedule for 2016 made by the Johns Hopkins group, and further scheduling agreements for next year are pending with other minor leagues. Discussions have begun with the Baltimore Ravens’ scouting department. Baseball’s major leagues have been using computers to produce their schedules for years.

“This is brand new; this is trail blazing,” said Eric Krupa, president of the South Atlantic League. He added that his 14-team league at the minors’ Class-A level has always had its schedule made by hand. “I am very much excited, intrigued by this whole process.”

So are the students who have worked on the project, said Donniell E. Fishkind, an associate research professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics in the Whiting School of Engineering. He said about 20 students who were excelling in his course, Introduction to Optimization, worked on the project.

“They’re visibly interested and excited. … The educational value is immense,” Fishkind said. It’s one thing to learn the mathematical concepts involved in programming, he said, but “a lot of times it doesn’t have meaning until you apply it.”

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