JHU students, instructors design minor league baseball scheduling solutions
Baseball fans track batting records, errors, and everything else that happens on the field but rarely give thought to some of the sport's most complex numbers—the ones required to get the players on the fields. The underappreciated challenge of scheduling each year's thousands of professional ballgames is a complex business that one Whiting School researcher is now taking on with the help of students.
Baseball schedules are a daunting challenge because there are so many constraints. A team can't play at home or away for too long. Travel distances have to be optimized. The list goes on and on. "You end up with this really difficult problem," says Donniell Fishkind, an associate research professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics.
That problem intrigued Fishkind when Tony Dahbura '81, MS '82, PhD '84, interim director of JHU's Information Security Institute, approached him to discuss the possibility of developing a new computer system for league scheduling. Dahbura also happens to be an owner of the Hagerstown Suns, a team in the South Atlantic League and affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
As a class assignment, the instructors created a fictitious minor league for students to schedule. Fishkind designed the guts of the computer program, and then the class added the tweaks.