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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Friday, July 19, 2002
Who are Baseball’s Smart Shoppers?
Even WorldCom’s accountants couldn’t make the Devil Rays’ purchases look good.
At the end of the season, it is reasonable to argue that just about every marginal dollar spent on a team that made it into the playoffs was a dollar well spent; and for a team that failed to make it into the post-season, every marginal dollar was wasted.
But that’s not the only way to look at the issue of how wisely teams spend their money. And it is not the end of the season. So, for now, I want to take a look at how much each club is paying for a victory. Well, actually, that’s not precisely what I want to see. I want to see how many marginal dollars each club is spending on each marginal victory.
What is a marginal dollar? Because the minimum a club can spend on player payroll is $5 million - 25 times $200,000 - every dollar above $5 million counts as a marginal dollar.
And what is a marginal victory? That is a bit subjective, but I have set the number at every win above a .300 winning percentage. Why? Because .300 is about the worst winning percentage any major league club could conceivably have, this year. No team in the last 40 years has been lower than .300. (The last was the 1962 New York Mets, 40-120, .250.)
Here are how the teams come out, in order of paying the least per marginal victory to paying the most:
Oakland Athletics - $1.309 million
Anaheim Angels - $2.093
Baltimore Orioles - $3.189
New York Mets - $4.596
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - $26.709
A few notes and observations:
1) The player payroll figures used in this analysis are based on payrolls at the start of the 2002 season. Although a few clubs have added payroll (and others have dropped some), most of the marginal wins to this point were taken with each team’s starting payroll in tact;
2) The wins per team was based on the standings listed by ESPN.com at 5 pm on July 18;
3) The D-Rays horrible winning percentage makes them look especially bad. But the $16.75 million they are paying to Greg Vaughn and Wilson Alvarez is 48.72% of their team payroll. Had Tampa Bay been wise enough to eschew just those two contracts (replacing them with league minimum salaries), their team payroll would drop from $34.38 million to $18.03 million, and their dollars per marginal win would drop by $14.635 million;
4) This kind of break-down demonstrates just how smart Billy Beane is. I have not done the calculations, but I am quite certain that the Athletics have spent the least amount per marginal victory every year for the last 3 years;
5) All of the teams that are spending more than $4 million per marginal victory are the teams that are trying to or have been dumping salary; and
6) Though it is true that the Yankees are blowing everyone else away this year in terms of total payroll - they currently have a $24.1 million edge on the Red Sox, having added Jeff Weaver and Raul Mondesi - New York is not spending much more per marginal win than the Royals and the Padres, and the Yanks are paying much less per marginal win than the Cubs, Tigers, and Brewers.
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