Does Money Equal MLB Success? Howabout Smarts?

Sports radio in Chicago is going bat-shit about how poorly the Cubs are doing.  The Sox, btw, are not exactly KILLING out there either, but it seems to always come back to the money.  “The Cubs spend so much money, there are higher expectations,” say some.  I wouldn’t disagree.

But it’s not like the White Sox are scraping the bottom of the barrel.  They’re actually one of the biggest spenders in the league as well… and have made some expensive moves just recently, trading for Jake Peavy and flat-out buying Alex Rios.

Annnnyway, the “spending” criticism is the same reason most people really dislike the Yankees — as the tend to buy players.  Conversely, it’s the reason people tend to support small market teams that make smart moves… the Marlins, the Rays, and of course, the money-ballin‘ A’s.

There seems to be a sentiment that “buying” a winning team is inauthentic, when in fact, it’s really how the game is played.  I’ve pulled the ’08, and (projected) ’09 team wins and wanted to compare which teams get the most bang for their buck, which teams pay the most to still suck:

So.  Here’s a scattergraph that shows all MLB team salaries compared to their 08 and 09 (projected) wins:

Guess Which Ones Are The Yankee Ones.

The findings were not that wowing.  Part of that, obvs, is because I suck at math, but the trend seems to say if you spend 50 to 100 mil a year on player salaries, you could win anywhere from 58 to 90+ games.  HA!  Thanks, statistics.  Like that helps.  More interesting though, spending LESS than 50 million yielded similar results to spending a little less than 3-times that amount.

Let’s break it down a bit more.

The average number of wins it took to get into the playoffs was:

  • 93 games

So, in the spirit of competition, here’s the average total salary cost for all teams that won (or are projected to win) 90+ games in ’08 and ’09:

  • $106,744,830 (13 Teams)

Here’s the average total salary cost for all teams that won (or are projected to win) 93+ games on ’08 and ’09:

  • $117,918,703 (8 Teams)

But!  This is fuzzy math!  If $ 118,000,000 makes you “playoff-worthy”, we wouldn’t even HAVE a playoff this year.  The 4 teams that spent that much money in ’09 – the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, and Red Sox — include the sub-.500 New York Mets who are certainly not going to make the cut.

So, if the Mets spend that much and still suck, it makes you wonder — who are the most and least-efficient spending teams.  We’re going to look at the total wins vs. total salary in 08 and 09…

The Best – Cost Per Win

  1. Marlins $346,580.03
  2. Rays $583,294.12  (Lost in the World Series)
  3. Pirates $735,252.95
  4. Twins $735,965.13 (Missed playoffs by one game [ed. note: by one one hit])
  5. Athletics $748,077.70

The Worst – Cost Per Win

  1. Yankees $2,161,530.10
  2. Mets $1,747,504.19
  3. Tigers $1,587,633.73
  4. Mariners $1,481,209.80
  5. Cubs $1,405,588.00 (Made Playoffs)

Weird, eh? Lots of spending will not gurantee you a spot in the playoffs, but spending efficiently won’t really help that much either.  To be completely transparent, six of the eight teams that made it into the playoffs in 2008 were below the 40th Percentile in salary-to-games won, so, I guess spending — smartly or otherwise –does increase your chances of making it to October.

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2 Responses to Does Money Equal MLB Success? Howabout Smarts?

  1. Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Does Money Equal MLB Success? Howabout Smarts?…

    Baseballbriefs.com tracking back Does Money Equal MLB Success? Howabout Smarts?…

  2. […] And in keeping things all fit and trim, I didn’t get to bring up this little tidbit…. spend.  A few years ago when I was more interested in talking baseball, I did a very remedial baseball math experiment. […]

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