Last night, I was on one of my favorite websites for sports statistics, Sporting Charts, when I saw their “Stat of the Week”. This week’s stat is the Yankees cost per win in 2013 was $2.69 million. This linked to a chart of every MLB team’s cost per win. (If you are at all interested in this subject or sports statistics in general, I highly recommend checking out Sporting Charts if you haven’t already. I could spend hours on that site.)
It seems moneyball is working.
Of the top 10 highest payrolls, only three of those teams made it to the postseason—the Dodgers, Tigers, and Red Sox. Of course the Red Sox won the World Series, but that doesn’t mean moneyball is not effective in the MLB. Three of the 11 poorest teams—the Pirates, A’s, and Rays—made the playoffs. The Rays paid $629K/win. That’s $2 million less per win than the Yankees. And they won seven more games than the Yankees did this year. In 2012, just one of the lowest 10 payroll teams made the playoffs—the A’s—compared to five of the 10 highest paid teams.
The Pirates paid $846K/win. They ranked 20th in payroll and 5th in wins in 2013. The A’s are the most impressive on this list though, ranking 27th in payroll and 4th in wins in the MLB. The saddest team on this list? The Philadelphia Phillies. They ranked 3rd in payroll and paid $2.26 million/win. They won just 73 games (one less than the Mets. The Mets!), which was good enough for 4th place in the NL East.
I really love this trend. Baseball not having a salary cap is extremely frustrating to fans of small market, low payroll teams like the Pirates, A’s, Rays, etc. Seeing small market teams compete with the likes of the Red Sox. Yankees and Dodgers is fun and it’s really good for baseball. Seriously, other than their fans, who wants to see all these super rich teams in the playoffs each season? Everyone loves rooting for the underdog and poor MLB teams will always be the underdog. If there was an A’s-Dodgers or Pirates-Yankees World Series, which teams are most people going to root for? People all around America will tune in just to see the chance of a small market team taking out the likes of the Yankees or Dodgers.
This is why I was so surprised and annoyed when Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington was named Executive of the Year. I know the Red Sox were coming off a bad 2012 season, but Cherington still had $150 million payroll to work with. He was essentially rewarded because the House that Epstein Built had a bad 2012 season and bounced back in 2013. The other GMs who received votes were Neal Huntington of the Pirates ($79 million payroll/94 wins); the Dayton Moore of the Royals ($81 million payroll/86 wins); and the Frank Wren of the Braves ($89 million payroll/96 wins). Those three teams have some of the lowest costs per win in the MLB.
In the immortal words of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, “Adapt or die.” Some small market teams have done just that. Let’s hope we see even more of it.