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Home Maury Brown Ranking Who in MLB Got the Biggest Bang For the Buck in 2009

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Ranking Who in MLB Got the Biggest Bang For the Buck in 2009 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 05 November 2009 22:51
Marginal Wins/Marginal Payroll data
Select the image above to see details for
all 30 clubs in MLB by Marginal Wins and
Marginal Payroll

With World Series now wrapped up, we can now place a bow on the 2009 season and call it done. Numerous articles (more than a few here) talked about how large revenue, big player payrolls dominated the postseason. Of the top 10 teams with the highest Opening Day payrolls, five of them made the postseason (Yankees, 1 – Red Sox, 4 – Angels, 6 – Phillies, 7 and Dodgers, 9). Only three teams were in the lower half of the league based on player payroll, with only one of them (Twins) being in the lower third of the league (Cardinals, 17 – Colorado, 18 – Twins, 24).

But, in terms of the regular season, how well did each of the 30 clubs do in terms of getting the biggest bang for their buck?

Or, more correctly, who were the most efficient and effective (and conversely, the least) of the 30 clubs?

To measure how well teams spent compared to their wins, we can use a metric created by the late, great Doug Pappas called Marginal Wins/Marginal Payroll.

(Select the image above to see complete 2009 Marginal Wins/Marginal Payroll data)

What is Marginal Payroll/Marginal Wins?

As a baseline, we’ll create a fictitious marginal team. Even the worst teams made up of near minor league players would not lose every game. So, we’ll say that a truly mediocre team would win only 30 percent of their games. For salary, we’ll set every players at the league minimum, which for 2009 was $400,000 . And finally, we’ll make the roster 25, plus 3 replacement players to allow for the DL.

Using each team’s winning percentage, along with the Opening Day payroll we can determine a team’s “marginal payroll”. When adding in how many games a team won over the course of the season, we can then determine how much it cost for each marginal win.

The formula works as such:

(club payroll - (28 x major league minimum) / ((winning percentage - .300) x 162)

So, the lower the cost per marginal win that is derived out of this formula, the better. You’re striving to get your cost per marginal low, thereby spending less per win – you’re efficient.

Being Efficient Doesn’t Always Equal Effective

If the barometer to a “winning season” was all about just spending the least per win, then (once again), the Florida Marlins are one of baseball’s best teams. With a ridiculously low $36,834,000 in Opening Day player payroll, you get a marginal payroll of $25,634,000. Add in that the Marlins pulled 38 marginal wins based off an 87-75 record (2nd in the NL East), or an insanely skimpy $667,552 per marginal win. Efficient, yes, but they missed the playoffs. We’ve said this for several years, but imagine if Jeffery Loria were to take some of the revenue sharing he pulls in (which was more than the team’s player payroll), and invested it in a key player or two. The Marlins could have had a real shot at the wild card.

Examples of paying the least per marginal win, yet being woefully ineffective include the Padres (marginal payroll of $32,534,200 with 26 marginal wins, or $1,232,356 per marginal win), and the A’s (marginal payroll of $51,110,000 with 26 marginal wins, or $1,935,985 per marginal win).

Inefficient and Ineffective

This is the worst place to be if you are an owner and general manager. It’s one thing to say, “We missed the playoffs, but didn’t wildly spend in the process.” It’s quite another to look at the ledger, and see that you spent truck loads on talent, only to have the team tank in the standings.

The winner – by a handsome margin in this category – is the New York Mets. The clubs had the second highest Opening Day player payroll at nearly $150 million ($149,373,987), which translates to a marginal payroll of $138,173,987. With a 70-92 record (.432), the Mets “earned” 21 marginal wins. Put the two together and you get a staggering $6,456,728 per marginal win. How does that stack up historically? Going back to 2005, only last year’s Mariners, who pulled 12 marginal wins and a cost per marginal win at $8,634,999, rank higher.

Other bad showings (both in terms of efficiency and effectivity) include the Washington Nationals (marginal payroll of $49,128,000 with only 10 marginal wins, or $4,723,846 per marginal win), Cleveland Indians (marginal payroll of $70,379,166 with only 16 marginal wins, or $4,291,413 per marginal win), the Baltimore Orioles (marginal payroll of $55,901,666 with only 15 marginal wins, or $3,629,978 per marginal win), and the Chicago Cubs who pulled off 35 marginal wins by posting an 83-87 record, but missed the playoffs despite having an Opening Day player payroll of $134,809,000 (marginal payroll of $123,609,000). Cost per marginal wins, despite missing the playoffs? $3,562,219.

On the Orioles, consider: The Birds spent more per marginal win ($3,629,978), than Yankees ($3,497,228), while coming in last in the AL East.

Inefficient, But Who Cares? We Made the Postseason

Owners don’t enjoy shelling out the big duckets for player payroll, but if the logic is, “the best players cost the most money”, then these clubs can at least shrug a bit and say they can recoup some of their losses through season-ticket sales in the off-season when they say, “We have a winning product; come see us again in 2010.”

Leading the charge after missing the 2008 postseason are the New York Yankees, who not only won the World Series, but racked up the most marginal wins (54) of any team this year in MLB. Of course, the winning came with a price tag that only the Yankees can provide, given their high levels of revenues.

The Opening Day player payroll for the Yankees was $201,449,189, or a staggering $52,075,202 more than the second highest Opening Day payroll in MLB by the Mets. Just think: the difference between the Yankees and Mets figures would cover all of the Pirates player payroll (the 28th smallest in the league), and you’d still have $3,382,202 left over in change. That high player payroll meant that the Yankees had a marginal payroll of $190,249,189 or $3,497,228 per marginal win. In defense of the Yankees… hey, if you have the revenues coming in, spending it on player talent seems appropriate. According to the Forbes franchise valuations, the Yankees posted a loss of $3.7 million, after having $47.3 million in losses in 2008. Remember, that's just on the baseball side, the YES Network isn't factored in, so don't cry too much for the Bronx Bombers. Salary cap proponents will certainly be gnashing teeth after reading this, however (remember, those high revenue making clubs that made the postseason we mentioned at the beginning).

Other big spenders that made the playoffs include the Red Sox (marginal payroll of $110,545,999, 46 marginal wins, $2,382,457 per marginal win), Angels (marginal payroll of $102,509,000.

Effective and Efficient: The Biggest Bang for the Buck

If GMs were given a bonus for getting the most wins with the least payroll, then these are the clubs that would win. So who is the winner for our “biggest bang for the buck award”? The NL wild card winning Colorado Rockies, which speaks volumes about the work of Dan O'Dowd (for getting a low-budget team back into the posteason for the second time in three years) and Jim Tracy (who took over after Clint Hurdles' firing and took a team that was 18-28 and had them finish 74-42).

The Rockies, who had one win more than the NL Central winning Cardinals (92) took their $64,001,000 marginal payroll, with 43 marginal wins, and garnered $1,474,677 per marginal win, or just under $500,000 per marginal win less than the Dodgers, who won the NL West.

The other team that got the most with the least was the Minnesota Twins. Pulling in 87 wins (38 marginal wins) they took their $65,299,266 player payroll ($54,099,266 marginal payroll), won the AL Central after a play-in game with the Tigers, at a cost of $1,419,928 per marginal win. To place this in perspective, the Tigers had one less marginal win, but had a marginal payroll of $103,885,145 or $2,800,139 per marginal win, nearly twice much per win as the Twins.

Other Notes:

  • Biggest disparity between cost per marginal wins: The Marlins ($667,552) and the Mets ($6,456,728) in the NL East, or a difference of $5,789,176 per marginal win.
  • Division with Lowest Avg. Cost Per Marginal Win: AL West ($1,986,804)
  • Division with Highest Avg. Cost Per Marginal Win: NL East ($3,285,561)

Select Read More to see wins along with cost per marginal win by Division in tables and charts

The following data is sorted by wins/placement in standings from left to right. * - Won Division, y - Won wild card


AL EAST Wins Cost per Maginal Win
*- Yankees 103 $3,497,228
y-Boston 95 $2,382,457
Tampa Bay 84 $1,472,120
Toronto 75 $2,626,451
Baltimore 64 $3,629,978


AL CENTRAL Wins Cost per Maginal Win
x-Minnesota 87 $1,419,928
Detroit 86 $2,800,139
Chicago Sox 79 $2,791,727
Cleveland 65 $4,291,413
Kansas City 65 $3,617,033


AL WEST Wins Cost per Maginal Win
x-LA Angels 97 $2,117,955
Texas 87 $1,483,823
Seattle 85 $2,409,455
Oakland 75 $1,935,985


NL EAST Wins Cost per Maginal Win
x-Philadelphia 93 $2,292,884
Florida 87 $667,552
Atlanta 86 $2,286,796
NY Mets 70 $6,456,728
Washington 59 $4,723,846


NL CENTRAL Wins Cost per Maginal Win
x-St. Louis 91 $1,566,158
Chicago Cubs 83 $3,562,219
Milwaukee 80 $2,196,895
Cincinnati 78 $2,121,037
Houston 74 $3,614,032
Pittsburgh 62 $2,736,715


NL WEST Wins Cost per Maginal Win
*-LA Dodgers 95 $1,922,728
y-Colorado 92 $1,474,677
San Francisco 88 $1,812,600
San Diego 75 $1,232,356
Arizona 70 $2,911,994






Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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