In an era filled with terms like Moneyball, the Yankees’ and Braves’ dynasties seeming to deteriorate and congressional drug busts, Major League Baseball is really going through an interesting period.
Financially speaking, the little guys are starting to take over. Teams with dismal payrolls are starting to search for real estate elsewhere in order to boost revenue, and the top-paid organizations cannot pull it together to win either in the regular season or in October.
Although money spent on the 40-man roster already puts teams in the hole from the start of the year, that value can be used as a theoretical scale to help gauge the specific dollar amount that each team spends for its wins and losses.
According to USA Today, in 2006 the New York Yankees topped the charts, paying $194,663,079 for 40 active team members. At the bottom of the scale, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays dished out a mere $35,417,967 for just as many players.
But does that mean there is really a correlation between on field performance and a team’s allocated player funds?
On the surface, the answer is yes. The Yankees tied with their national league counterparts – the New York Mets – for the most amount of regular season wins: 97. Finishing with the worst record in all of baseball during the 2006 regular season, the Devil Rays could only pull out 61 victories.
But what about everyone in between? As the Yankees know, regular season dominance does not always carry over into the post season.
To find out how effectively a team spends money and wins regular season games is actually quite simple. First, take the team’s total 2006 payroll and then divide that by the sum of the 2006 wins and losses. This equation will determine the total cost for a single game. In order to find out how much a team spent on victories that year, simply multiply that number by the total wins.
Naturally, the top 12 most cost-efficient teams did not make it out of regular season play.
With that in mind, finding out how little a team like the Florida Marlins pays for total losses really carries no value in this argument. For example, for a team with a very small payroll, neither losses nor wins exactly break the bank. For that reason, the total spent on losses is very small, even though that team recorded 84 losses and finished sub-.500. Not exactly a winning season. Thus, losses are quite expendable for a team with a small payroll.
Considering teams that finished above .500, the amount each team theoretically paid for its total 2006 wins should prove to be somewhat interesting.
The 2006 Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres topped the list with the least amount of money spent on their total wins. Not surprisingly, those three teams either made the playoffs or pushed past the first round into the Division Series playoffs.
And of course, the bottom few teams – all of which hail from the East Coast – also made the playoffs, but have spent a heck of a lot more to do so. Essentially, the teams that spent the most money per win happened to fare equally in the regular season – and even in some cases did not make it as far in the playoffs as their “tightwad” counterparts.
While there really is no conclusion to make about how much this theoretical cost per win drives a team to succeed in the regular season, it is a good indicator of how effective some teams actually are. This information does not translate into the postseason, because the sample size of a five- or seven-game series is too small to judge accurately.
With all of that in mind, to let a final number float around, the two teams that did the best in 2006 from both the National and American Leagues, were sixth and ninth, respectively, on the list of most cost effective winning teams, as the St. Louis Cardinals spent $45,825,986.29 for their regular season wins and the Detroit Tigers spent $48,445,816.48