I'm just going to namedrop a little, and toot my horn a touch. I was just reading Nick Dika's blog, and his most recent post concerns a Sports Illustrated article that laments the death of "Moneyball"2. I don't want to completely poach Dika's words, and don't want to go over an entire article, but basically, the point was that Moneyball (whereby a small-market team can win just as handily as a large-market team by focusing on different stats and abilities to get the most bang for their buck) is beginning to fail, mostly because the large-market teams are forcusing on players with those same stats and abilities and simply pricing the smaller teams out of the market.
Dika believes that this is not the case.
While it's true that spending more money usually results in more wins, it doesn't always help as much as the teams wants.3 The New York Yankees are currently the only team on pace to win more than 100 games and they've done it with the highest opening day payroll in baseball (more than $201 million; the Mets are second at nearly $150 million). However, that means that, by the end of the season, each of those wins will have cost them $1,999,066.
The Yankees aren't even spending the most per win - the Mets actually cracked $2 million per win, yet their injury-riddled club should finish 8 or 10 games below .500.
Of the 12 teams spending more than $90 million on salary, only two should fail to finish below .500 (New York Mets, Houston Astros), while two other teams are on the bubble (Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox). Yet, when you expand the selection criteria by just4 $10 million, there are three more teams (Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays) that will probably not be winning 80+ games, but will be spending $80+ million. Of all those teams, Milwaukee has the lowest cost-per-win, coming in at around $1.03 million.
On the other side of the ledger, there are 10 teams that should finish out the year spending less than $1 million per win. Only one of them (San Francisco Giants) is spending more than $80 million, and two more (St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies) are spending more than $70 million. The rest are spending less than $70 million and, for the most part, it's not hurting them in the win column - St. Louis leads the NL Central, Colorado and San Francisco are in a dead heat in the NL Wild Card Race, the Texas Rangers (around $747,000 per win) are battling the Boston Red Sox (about $1.3 million per win) for the AL Wild Card, and only four teams (Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins5) look to be finishing below .500. Hell, the Florida Marlins only spend about $431,000 per win, more than $200,000 less than anyone else, and they still have an outside shot at the Wild Card.
Moneyball isn't working exactly as it once did (after all, the Oakland Athletics, around whom the concept was originally built, will be spending about $881,000 per win to finish around 10 games below .500), but the small-market teams are still finding a way to win and not spend a fortune doing it. While the teams from the larger market are trying a very Wal-Martian approach and trying to price the small-market teams out of the running for high-priced free agents and prospects, it has cost them a pretty penny.
Promised movie post forthcoming. I promise.
1 - That's what she said
2 - Freaking awesome book
3 - While there is a positive correlation, it's pretty weakly positive (only about 0.49)
4 - Ha. Just $10 million
5 - Who, with a couple of bounces over the last 30-odd games of the year, could very easily not be in this group