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Winning with Efficiency
by Mike Maloney (MLB)
Posted on June 28, 2007, 12:50 PM

This is a little activity I like to do on my own every once in a while, so I thought I'd analyze it a bit and show my results to all of you. Unlike the NFL and the NBA, MLB does not have a salary cap. Teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox go out and spend and spend and spend with little regard for overall payroll, just so long as they can put together a competitive team that can win games. Other teams like the Devil Rays and the Marlins keep their payroll as low as possible in order to make it easier to keep costs low and the team profitable, often times at the expense of winning. However, there is no right way of doing things. While higher payroll seems to correlate to success (4 of the top 5 highest payrolls in baseball have won World Series since 2000), it's not a necessity (2 of the bottom 5 payrolls in baseball have also won World Series since 2000). But that's not what this is about. Rather, due to the large discrepancy in payrolls in baseball (#1: $195,229,045; #30: $24,124,200) I thought it would be fun to see how much each team in baseball has paid for a win this season (As of the end of the day, Wednesday, June 27th 2007). First, here's a quick list of teams, ordered from top to bottom by total payroll, highest to lowest:

1 New York Yankees
2 Boston Red Sox
3 New York Mets
4 Chicago White Sox
5 Los Angeles Angels
6 Los Angeles Dodgers
7 Seattle Mariners
8 Chicago Cubs
9 Milwaukee Brewers
10 Detroit Tigers
11 Baltimore Orioles
12 Minnesota Twins
13 San Fransisco Giants
14 St. Louis Cardinals
15 Atlanta Braves
16 Philadelphia Phillies
17 Houston Astros
18 Oakland Athletics
19 Toronto Blue Jays
20 Cincinnati Reds
21 Texas Rangers
22 Kansas City Royals
23 Cleveland Indians
24 San Diego Padres
25 Colorado Rockies
26 Arizona Diamondbacks
27 Pittsburgh Pirates
28 Washington Nationals
29 Florida Marlins
30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Now, I don't want to break down each team individually, but I will discuss the Top 5 and Bottom 5 on the list of $$$ spent per win.

1. New York Yankees
2007 Team Payroll: $195,229,045
Record: 36-39
$ per Win: $5,423,029

Okay, so this one's pretty obvious. A ginormous payroll coupled with a subpar record puts the Yankees by far in first place. Their payroll is $50 million more than the next highest team in Boston (And that's not even including Roger Clemens salary!), and their $ per Win is a whopping $2 million more than the next team on the list. Of course, when your 5 highest paid guys (A.Rodgriguez $27.7 mil, J.Giambi $23.4 mil, D.Jeter $21.6 mil, A.Pettite $16 mil, B.Abreu $15.6 mil) make more than most of the total payrolls of 60% of the other teams out there, chances are you're going to have to put up some pretty stellar numbers to avoid the top spot on my list.

2. Chicago White Sox
2007 Team Payroll: $109,680,167
Record: 32-42
$ per Win: $3,427,505

I must admit, I'm a little surprised to see the White Sox at #2. I know their season has been awful and they don't have too many wins, but I guess I never realized they have the fourth highest payroll in baseball. But they have four guys over $10 million a year (J.Thome, J.Vasquez(???), P.Konerko, J.Garland) and at/over $9 million (M.Buehrle, J.Contreras). This team's a mess, there's no other way to look at it. Their payroll is massive, and their offense is just flat out awful. People keep talking about it like they're in a slump, but to be honest, there aren't a lot of consistently solid hitters on that team. Not to mention the crap that their bullpen has been throwing lately. I don't expect them to move too far down this list over the course of the season.

3. Boston Red Sox
2007 Team Payroll: $143,526,214
Record: 48-29
$ per Win: $2,990,129

Ah, the Boston Red Sox. They're like the Yankees, except they've actually got a good team to go along with their huge payroll. Their payroll figure isn't even correct, since it doesn't account for the $50 million the Sox paid for the rights to sign Matsuzaka, just to put things into perspective. The Red Sox are actually a good example of what you can do with a huge budget. Similar to the Yankees in the 90s, the Sox go out and sign lots of big names for lots of money, and in turn they put together a lot of wins. So while the Yankees and the White Sox finding themselves at the top of the list is a bad thing, it's not so much of a bad thing for the Sox. Of course, with a payroll this high (M.Ramirez $17 mil, J.Drew $14.4 mil, D.Ortiz $13.3 mil, C.Schilling $13 mil, J.Varitek $11 mil) come high expectations (We all know what happens when the Yankees lose), so there's definitely some pressure there to succeed.

4. Baltimore Orioles
2007 Team Payroll: $95,107,807
Record: 34-43
$ per Win: $2,797,288

The team has a high payroll (#11), although not obscenely high. The problem is, they don't spend their money on great talent. Kris Benson, Melvin Mora, Jaret Wright and Ramon Hernandez all make over $6 million a year. Miguel Tejada's the only All-Star caliber player on the team, however ($13.8 mil). You'd think that a team that can perform so subpar on a consistent basis would at least be able to trim some payroll so they can save some money in the process.

5. Houston Astros
2007 Team Payroll: $87,759,500
Record: 32-46
$ per Win: $2,742,484

Sounds about right. When you already have a huge contract for your big hitter (Lance Berkman, $14.5 mil), and have one of the highest paid pitchers in the league (Roy Oswalt, $13 mil), and then add one of the biggest free agent contracts in the offseason (Carlos Lee, $11.5 mil), your payroll is going to be pretty high. And on top of that, when your team completely flops and your season has thus far been a disaster, there's a good chance there's a place on the Top 5 for you. And thus, here are the Houston Astros. In all honesty, the Astros have a fairly average payroll, but their record is considerably below average, which really pushes that $ per Win significantly upwards. I guess on the bright side they don't have to have a bad record and eat Roger Clemens' ridiculous contract, right? Right?

There's the Top 5, let's see how our more efficient teams have turned out so far:

26. Pittsburgh Pirates
2007 Team Payroll: $38,604,500
Record: 33-44
$ per Win: $1,169,833

Being a Cubs fan, I was fairly certain that the Pirates would end up on the bottom part of this list. I can't even remember the last time Pittsburgh paid money for anyone (Thanks again for Aramis Ramirez!). I'm actually a little surprised that Mr. Pirate, Jack Wilson, is even still on the team, considering he's making a whopping $5.4 million. The problem with the Pirates is that they will always be at the bottom of this list (Unless they're really really awful and their $ per Win shoots up because of it), but they'll never be competitive for it. They don't spend a lot of money to win games, but at the same time, they don't win many games.

27. Washington Nationals
2007 Team Payroll: $37,347,500
Record: 32-46
$ per Win: $1,167,109

No wonder Alfonso Soriano jumped ship. A) There's no way in hell they would pay him the money he wanted, B) Who wants to play on a team that has seven guys making more than $1 million a year?, and C) Nick Johnson ($5.5 mil) and Cristian Guzman ($4.2 mil) are the two highest paid players on that team. Who? Exactly. I'm actually impressed that this team has managed to win 32 games, because they are just really really bad.

28. Arizona Diamondbacks
2007 Team Payroll: $52,067,546
Record: 45-34
$ per Win: $1,157,057

And here's our positive story for the Bottom 5. Arizona is very efficient, but also manages to win baseball games. They're sitting in first place in the NL West while managing to not pay a single player over $10 million. In fact, only three guys are making over $5 million (R.Johnson $9.1 mil, L.Hernandez $7 mil, D.Davis $5.5 mil). It'll be interesting to see if they can keep this pace up with the fifth-lowest payroll in baseball.

29. Florida Marlins
2007 Team Payroll: $30,507,000
Record: 36-42
$ per Win: $847,417

I'm fairly stunned that Florida is not at the bottom of this list. Now, it's entirely possible that they should be at the bottom; the reason for the large payroll (Considering their 2006 payroll was $15 million, this is large) is Armando Benitez ($9.8 mil), but the Giants paid Florida some cash when Benitez was sent to Florida, so the Marlins are probably not paying for most of the contract. You also have to take into account the fact that Miguel Cabrera won his arbitration case before the season, so his $7.4 million is probably more than the Marlins wanted to pay him. Still, considering two-thirds of the team is making league minimum, six games under .500 isn't too bad.

30. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2007 Team Payroll: $24,124,200
Record: 33-43
$ per Win: $731,036

Now here's a team that just doesn't care. The Marlins have always had a crappy payroll, but at lest they've won 2 World Series in the past decade. The D-Rays don't spend money, don't win, and don't really seem to care one way or the other. They've got one guy making over $3 million a year (Carl Crawford) and...that's about it. Remind me again why this franchise even exists? They're stuck in a division with the Yankees and the Red Sox, so there's no chance of them every being competitive with a low payroll, and no one goes to the games. Really makes you wonder why Lou Piniella left.

Well, that'll about do it. Just for your own amusement, here's the full list base on $ per Win:

1 New York Yankees $5,423,029
2 Chicago White Sox $3,427,505
3 Boston Red Sox $2,990,129
4 Baltimore Orioles $2,797,288
5 Houston Astros $2,742,484
6 New York Mets $2,742,228
7 San Fransisco Giants $2,741,487
8 St. Louis Cardinals $2,655,495
9 Chicago Cubs $2,629,921
10 Seattle Mariners $2,536,115
11 Los Angeles Dodgers $2,470,557
12 Minnesota Twins $2,344,603
13 Cincinnati Reds $2,305,166
14 Philadelphia Phillies $2,234,205
15 Los Angeles Angels $2,229,619
16 Atlanta Braves $2,182,748
17 Texas Rangers $2,150,584
18 Milwaukee Brewers $2,130,141
19 Detroit Tigers $2,115,119
20 Toronto Blue Jays $2,049,374
21 Kansas City Royals $2,041,409
22 Oakland Athletics $1,998,459
23 Colorado Rockies $1,432,211
24 Cleveland Indians $1,370,517
25 San Diego Padres $1,323,536
26 Pittsburgh Pirates $1,169,833
27 Washington Nationals $1,167,109
28 Arizona Diamondbacks $1,157,057
29 Florida Marlins $847,417
30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays $731,036

I might revisit this list later in the season to see how things have changed. That's all for now.

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