Major League Baseball is about putting the best players on the field to be competitive but at what point is paying too much for salaries actually hurting your team? Let’s take a look at successful teams that made the postseason and see how their payrolls were reflected in their win efficiencies.
Billy Beane, GM of Oakland, did his payroll homework once again this season by having the most efficient team in Major League Baseball. Beane paid $61M this year in player salaries, and was able to capture a solid 96 wins, which led them all the way to the postseason. Those numbers add up to a cost per win efficiency of $632K, which puts them at the top of all teams with a winning record. Let’s take a look at what made them so cost efficient according to their XVAL (Excess Value).
Josh Donaldson is the biggest component of the A’s efficiency. Donaldson received a salary of $492K this season, which was not indicative of the value he produced for his team at $24.12M. Given these numbers his XVAL for the 2013 regular season was $23.63M, which is second overall in the MLB, trailing only Mike Trout. To put into perspective how impressive that XVAL number is, think about the payroll for the entire team of the Houston Astros. Houston’s payroll was an impressively low figure of $22M, which is lower then Donaldson’s XVAL!
Pitching was a very strong component for the Athletics’ success on the field. The A’s were led by Bartolo Colon, who only lost three games in 21 starts. Colon began the season slowly with an ERA of 4.50 but improved nearly every game and ended strong with an ERA of 2.65. This improvement in ERA was reflected in his XVAL, which peaked at just over $12M a couple days before the end of the season. Colon had a WAR of 4.95 and produced $14.5M of value to his team. His salary was $3M this season, which made his performance that much more impressive because the higher your salary the more difficult it is to have a positive XVAL.
The Tampa Bay Rays came in a close second this year in the rankings for most cost-efficient Major League baseball team. Joe Madden, GM of the Rays, did an incredible job with his payroll, only paying $58M in player salaries. This was the lowest payroll of all postseason teams (including Oakland) and the third lowest in all of baseball, behind only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins. The Rays won 91 games during the regular season, putting them only two wins short of Oakland for the most efficient team in baseball. What made the Rays so efficient relating to XVAL?
Evan Longoria is the second highest paid player on Tampa Bay at $6M/yr. It is unusual for a top paid player to also top his team in XVAL but this year Longoria did. Longoria had a .500 slugging percentage nearly the whole year, which was the reason for his XVAL inflation. His WAR of 5.98 combined with his yearly salary of $6M resulted in an $11.94M XVAL.
Besides Longoria, Alex Cobb worked out as a steal for the Rays this season. He only lost three games in 22 appearances and ended the season with a 2.76 ERA. Cobb’s low salary of $502K and WAR of 3.9 led him to produce $11.7M of value to his team. According to these numbers, Cobb ended the season with an XVAL of $11.2M.
Oakland and Tampa Bay’s clubs are a perfect examples that you can have a modest payroll and a competitive postseason team. The managers of these teams looked for the best possible talent at the best possible price. This reasoning means their teams are the most efficient teams in baseball but also still capable of making the postseason.