( This is a continuation of series of posts that will attempt to predict the outcome of the upcoming MLB season using nothing more than math, Payroll projections, past outcomes and a new way to view the economics of baseball. It would behoove you to read the original explanation of terms and concepts before proceeding.)
No other division in baseball more acutely displays the idiotic economic system in baseball in such grand fashion as the National League west. To the far right you have the LA Dodgers: Filled with intrigue and drama. The bankruptcy. The owners with fake tans and piles of money. Public divorces and tabloid accusations. Only the septic tank of LA could take something as American as the Dodgers and turn them into just another bad reality show. And of course, like everything else in Los Angeles, no matter how stupid and grotesque it becomes, it makes an absurd amount of money. For the first time in nearly over 20 years the New York Yankees are not going to be the team with the highest payroll. Less than a year after a messy divorce and bankruptcy the Dodgers are set to start the year with an estimated $213 million dollar payroll. Some have that number closer to a quarter of a BILLION.
90 miles south the San Diego Padres will start the year with a payroll of $65 million. The Dodgers have three outfielders that would cost 2/3rds of the Padres entire payroll. The Padres don’t have one player that makes more than $7.5 mil. The Dodgers have ELEVEN. The Dodgers projected $213 mil payroll is only 7% less ($14 mil) than the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks payroll combined. (Padres $65 mil, Rockies $73 mil, Diamondbacks $89 mil=$227)
I’m begging…no..In fact I’m daring you to explain that. How is this fair again? Exactly how does this league have a shred of credibility?
But that’s LA. It isn’t trendy unless it costs 5x more for no apparent reason. (See Complete work here. Excel 2007 required)
LA Dodgers-Projected wins 97/$213 mil payroll (2012 86 wins/$95mil) The most expensive team in history has to be the odds on favorite to win this division, and not just because of payroll. Gonzalez, Ethier, Crawford, Kemp, Ramirez, Grienke…..it reads like an all-star team. Actually, it kind of is since the Dodgers will have 5 players on their opening day roster who were starters in an all-star game in the last two years. Too much talent. Too much money. They won 86 games last year with a payroll less than half of what it is now, so it is hardly a stretch of the imagination that they will win an extra 11 games with an extra $118 million dollars. No team that has ever spent $200 mil has failed to win fewer than 89 games. The average win total for a team with a $200 million payroll is 94.3. Of course only 5 teams ever have spent that much and they all rhyme with New Pork Spankees.
San Francisco Giants-Projected wins 95/$137 million payroll (2012 94 wins/$117 mil) It’s going to be difficult for them to maintain their 95 win status with LA doubling their payroll. But this is about math, not reality. With a payroll last year of $117 mil the Giants won the division and the World Series, averaging $1.25 mil CPV (cost per victory). League average CPV was $1.22 mil, and their overall payroll was only 119% of league average. So they got great bang for their buck. A 15% increase in payroll is hardly groundbreaking, and when adjusted for inflation is actually only about 10-11%. The biggest problem (aside from the Dodgers) is that to improve upon 94 wins has historically cost much, much more than 133% of the average league salary. Each win above 95 become increasingly more expensive than the ones before it. Unless you’re Billy Beane. And if that’s the case then money is really irrelevant to people who sold their soul to the Demon Lords of baseball. Regardless of who sold their soul for baseball clairvoyance, The Giants were already up against the curve so to speak. Their CPV was already one of the best in the league and more salary really meets the law of diminishing returns. In the last 12 seasons only 37 teams have gone over 95 wins, about 3 teams per year. Their salary that year ranged anywhere from 226% (’04 Yankees) to 49% (’08 Rays) of the league average. 15 of the 37 were below the average and 22 above it, with the median salary needed to win 96+games being 132%. The San Francisco Giants are at a projected 133% in 2013.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Projected wins 85/$89mil payroll(2012 81 wins/$74mil) I’m not even really sure how their payroll went up $15mil after trading away Justin Upton. Regardless, GM Kevin Tower’s trend is somewhat of an enigma since it’s only his second full season. He learned under Billy Beane, so value is something that is probably going to be a staple of the D’backs foreseeable future. Adjusted for inflation their actual payroll increase was about 13.5%. Applying that same increase to their 2012 CPV of 917k means they can expect a CPV in 2013 of $1.036 mil. With a projected payroll of 89 mil that works out to be 85 wins.
San Diego Padres-projected wins 77/$65 mil payroll (2012 76 wins/$55mil) Sure they added 23% more salary, but that’s only because their salary in 2012 was the lowest in the major leagues. Even Billy Beane spent more for god’s sake, so open the purse strings Grandma. At $55 million, their payroll would also have been the lowest in the NHL. Anyways…. When adjusted for inflation they actually only added 12% more salary and when adjusting their CPV 12% it works out to be 77 wins, only one more than they had all of last year.
That’s the neat thing about math and salary in baseball: at either end of the spectrum the more you add (or take away) the less it matters. Which is exactly why assclowns like Bonutt and Jeffrey Loria do what they do. Whether they spend 55 mil or 65 mil makes almost no difference. It might ultimately effect their record by one or two games, and really, is there much difference between 73 and 75 wins? Same with the Yankees and the big spenders at the other end of the spectrum. The difference between $190 and $200 million might be the difference of winning 97 games, or 95. So ultimately, how much do those two wins mean to you? At 94+ wins you are almost assured a playoff spot, so you might as well save the $10 and buy a gold toilet for your third string mistress’ cat. Same thing with less than 75 wins. At the end of the year the difference between 75 wins and 73 is next to nothing, and moral victories aren’t worth 3-4 mil apiece.
Colorado Rockies-projected wins 58/$73 mil payroll (2012 64 wins/$78mil) One of the few teams truly cutting payroll in 2013, and they picked the wrong division to try that. Their unspectacular CPV is fairly consistent at $1.2 mil. That’s not a bad number, it’s pretty average really. When adjusted for inflation they actually cut their payroll by 10%. Adjust their CPV to match and it works out to be about 58 wins in 2013. God knows what it will be if Tulowitski gets hurt…
All in all, the NL West is a great microcosm of just how completed effed up the economics of baseball are. When the team with the second biggest payroll is spending more than the bottom two teams combined, you have issues.