Trick and Colleagues Produce Master Schedule For Major League Baseball's 2005 Season
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Trick and Colleagues Produce Master Schedule For Major League Baseball's 2005 Season

Major League Baseball opened its 2005 season following the computer-generated master schedule developed by Tepper School Professor Michael Trick and his colleagues. (Photo by Susie Cribbs)

Michael Trick (left) and Doug Bureman are co-founders of The Sports Scheduling Group, which used a combination of techniques from the field of operations research to produce the 2005 Major League Baseball master schedule. The group also produces athletic schedules for several NCAA conferences. (Photo by Karen Meyers)
Michael Trick is not a potential 20-game winner, .300 hitter, home run king or golden glover, but the Tepper School of Business professor has already had a major impact on the 2005 Major League Baseball (MLB) season. Trick and his colleagues in The Sports Scheduling Group have produced the first computer-generated master schedule for Major League Baseball.

"There might be 1,000 idiosyncratic constraints in a sport, but that's not what makes it hard. It's the number of teams," Trick told Bruce Gordon Stoff of Sports Illustrated magazine. "With as few as 10 teams, you can generate more possible solutions than there are atoms in the universe. It's really remarkable."

If 10 teams produce more solutions than imaginable, consider Major League Baseball, which is comprised of two leagues and 30 teams. Each team plays 162 games for a total of 2,430 games during the six-month regular season that spans from early April through late September.

To create the schedule, Trick and his colleagues used a combination of techniques from the field of operations research. These methods allow for the efficient sifting through of the huge number of possibilities to generate a handful of good schedules to present to the league.

"Nobody can look at our schedule and backfill what we did," Trick told USA Today's Michael Hiestand. "It's unusual to patent algorithms, and that's the heart of what we do. The devil is in the details."

In addition to the number of teams and games, Trick had several other factors to consider when creating the schedule. He had to account for interleague play and dates when the 30 different stadiums weren't available. He had to limit the length of road trips for teams and avoid scheduling teams for more than 20 consecutive days. Even baseball players need a day off every now and then.

Trick also tried to reduce the back-to-back home and away series between the same two teams that have often been scheduled in past years, and allow for a balanced schedule so that games between division rivals are spread throughout the 26-week calendar.

Trick is the Bosch Professor at the Tepper School and President of the Carnegie Bosch Institute for Applied Studies in International Management, an independently funded component of the Tepper School that concentrates on research and executive education in international management.

In 2003, Trick co-founded The Sports Scheduling Group ( along with Doug Bureman, a former Pittsburgh Pirates vice president for business operations, and George Nemhauser, the A. Russell Chandler Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech. Trick says Bureman, who has worked for Major League Baseball for many years, provided the necessary contacts to work with MLB and the insights needed to properly evaluate schedules.

Based in Butler, Pa., The Sports Scheduling Group produces master sports schedules for several conferences in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Southland Conference, the Colonial Athletic Conference and the Mid-American Conference.

Bruce Gerson
April 4, 2005

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