Short Nerd Chief

Baseball payroll vs. performance

Posted by Fred on April 29, 2008


Each year, Ben Fry puts together a chart showing how well MLB teams are spending their money, graphically depicting record and payroll.  He’s updated the chart for 2008, discarding the first part of the season as “statistically silly.”  Last year, the LCS included three teams (the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Indians) that were relatively frugal, and this year is shaping up to be more of the same.  The top five records in baseball belong to teams ranking 23rd (Arizona), 8th (Chicago Cubs), 28th (Oakland), 30th (Florida)and 6th (LA Angels). 

No matter how you look at it, spending a lot of money is no longer a guarantee of success.  The six division leaders include Oakland, Chicago White Sox (5th), Baltimore (22nd)/Tampa Bay (29th), Arizona, Chicago Cubs and Florida.  If the playoffs were to start today, the top four payrolls would all be watching at home. The top 5 payrolls (total $739,139,520) are a combined 67-61.  The bottom 5 payrolls (total $217,250,008 or $8.1 million more than the Yankees are spending all by themselves) are 65-63.

It’s similar if you look at individuals.  The three highest paid position players all play in the Bronx.  Alex Rodriguez (.286, 4 HR, 11 RBI) is making $28 million, Jason Giambi (.167, 5 HR, 11 RBI) is making $23.4 million and Derek Jeter (.279, 0 HR, 13 RBI) is making $21.6 million.  Chase Utley, at $7.8 million, is outplaying that trio virtually single-handedly (.359, 10 HR, 21 RBI).  Add in Pat Burrell (.349, 8 HR, 25 RBI) at $14.3 million and the Phillies have 18 HR and 46 RBI for less than the Yankees are paying Giambi.

Pitchers are somewhat similar.  The four highest-paid pitchers are Johan Santana (3-2, 3.12 ERA) at $16.9 million, Andy Pettitte (3-2, 3.23) at $16 million, Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 2.21) at $16 million and Mike Hampton, who hasn’t pitched since 2005 and is currently rehabbing for the Richmond Braves, at $15.9 million.  The MLB leader in wins is Brandon Webb (6-0, 1.98) at $5.5 million.  The ERA leader is Cliff Lee (4-0, 0.28) at $4 million.  The strikeout king is Felix Hernandez (2-1, 2.22, 41 Ks) at $540,000.  The Yankees have four pitchers and ten players overall who make more than those three combined.

[via Kottke]


2 Responses to “Baseball payroll vs. performance”

  1. Ben Keeler said

    A little early, it seems to me, to be looking at salaries and performance. I wouldnt take it serious until around Labor Day.

  2. Fred said


    Of course it’s too early to draw any conclusions about anything. We’re only 27 games or so into a 162 game season. The Os or Rays are not going to win the AL East, and the Marlins are not going to win the NL East. I also assume either the Indians or Tigers will turn their seasons around by the end. However, we do have enough data to conclude that (1) spending $200 million does not ensure a pennant and (2) signing players, particularly pitchers, to $100 million deals is a Bad Idea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: