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Wed October 19, 2011
Dr. Tallys Yunes, University of Miami - Umpire Scheduling
Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Tallys Yunes of the University of Miami reveals how computers have greatly simplified the complex process of scheduling umpire crews for Major League Baseball.
Tallys Yunes is an assistant professor of management science in the University of Miami's School of Business Administration. His research is focused on finding uses of mathematics to help people and businesses make better decisions. He holds a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University.
Dr. Tallys Yunes - Umpire Scheduling
Baseball fans are well aware their favorite teams have to travel all around North America, but most of us forget that umpires have to do the same. The 30 teams in Major League Baseball play more than 2400 games officiated by four-person umpire crews during a six-month season every year. Unlike players who have a home city where they play half of their games, the 17 umpire crews travel from one city to another after each series. The idea is to prevent the same umpires from handling the games for any team too many times in a season.
Due to cost, it's important to keep the travel manageable. But that's only a small part of the problem. The umpire schedule has to obey many other restrictions and travel rules. For example: umpires should not to work more than 21 days without a day off, they cannot officiate a day game after a long trip, and they should visit the home city of every team. Finding an acceptable trade-off among so many conflicting objectives is a very difficult problem. Billions of possible answers exist; some better than others.
In the past, it took weeks of planning by a former umpire to manually build the schedule. Our research team has been using mathematical techniques from the field of Operations Research to create the official umpire schedule for Major League Baseball since 2008, with much less manual effort. Let's say the Phillies are playing the Cubs in Chicago, while the Red Sox are playing the Yankees in New York. What if we swap the umpires assigned to those series? We analyze thousands of those swaps per second. The resulting umpire schedules are more balanced, have fewer rule violations, and fewer umpire crews missing visits to teams at home and on the road.