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WAR efficiency by NL team and Cardinals roster

Identifying how efficient each team had to be with its money to reach the playoffs and the cost efficiency of individual St. Louis Cardinals players.

By Ian Walton

Following recent discussions that were spawned from my past two articles (links one and two) on the subject, I wanted to take one further quick look at WAR and National League spending.  In particular, I am going to highlight how much each team would have had to spend to acquire one WAR (win above replacement) in 2010 and reach the playoffs without increasing their payroll.

The following table displays the total WAR produced by all of the players for each team, along with the teams’ opening day payroll as provided by Baseball Reference.  To keep things simple this time, the amount of money paid per WAR is listed.

Given that National League Central teams would have had to produce 37.9 WAR to reach the NL Central Champion Cincinnati Reds and that the remaining teams would have had to produce 39.6 WAR to reach the NL Wild Card Atlanta Braves, I calculated the maximum amount of money each team would have had to have spend per WAR in order to reach the postseason.

For example, the Cardinals spent $93.5M in 2010 and needed 37.9 WAR to match the Reds, so dividing the former by the latter yielded a requirement of $2.47M/WAR.  Finally, I subtracted dollars/WAR needed to reach the playoffs from dollars/WAR actually spent to show how far each non-playoff team fell short.

Table 1: National League Dollars Per WAR Requirement for 2010 Playoffs

Team Total WAR Salary $/WAR $/WAR Needed for Playoffs $/WAR Above Playoff Requirement
PHI 40.6 $141,928,379 $3,495,773 $3,584,050 -$88,277
SFG 41.0 $98,186,333 $2,394,789 $2,479,453 -$84,664
ATL 39.6 $84,021,166 $2,121,747 $2,121,747 $0
CIN 37.9 $68,645,542 $1,811,228 $1,811,228 $0
SDP 35.4 $37,386,500 $1,056,116 $944,104 $112,012
STL 36.1 $93,540,751 $2,591,157 $2,468,094 $123,063
COL 31.4 $83,824,000 $2,669,554 $2,116,768 $552,786
FLA 25.2 $57,029,719 $2,263,084 $1,440,144 $822,940
NYM 29.7 $132,753,942 $4,469,830 $3,352,372 $1,117,457
LAD 25.6 $94,953,516 $3,709,122 $2,397,816 $1,311,306
MIL 23.6 $80,708,278 $3,419,842 $2,129,506 $1,290,336
WSN 19.5 $57,599,000 $2,953,795 $1,454,520 $1,499,275
ARI 16.9 $52,218,166 $3,089,832 $1,318,641 $1,771,192
CHC 20.0 $145,784,000 $7,289,200 $3,846,544 $3,442,656
HOU 14.2 $91,540,000 $6,446,479 $2,415,303 $4,031,175
PIT 1.7 $34,533,000 $20,313,529 $911,161 $19,402,368

Through this display, one can clearly see that teams with higher payrolls could afford to be less efficient with their spending.  The Chicago Cubs, with the highest payroll in the NL, could afford to spend as much as $3.85M/WAR yet ended up spending a whopping $7.29M/WAR.  The Phillies and Giants, as the top two teams in the NL, were in fact a bit more efficient with their money than was absolutely necessary to quality for the playoffs.  Despite being the most efficient with their money by far, the Padres’ miniscule payroll led to even greater efficiency requirements that weren’t quite met.  The Cardinals were next closest to their required spending efficiency, falling a mere $123K/WAR short of the production needed to match the Reds.

Given an assumed $4.5M/WAR earned by the average free agent, one can see from the “$/WAR Needed for Playoffs” column in the table above that no National League teams could afford to fund enough production to reach the playoffs with such players, although the higher budget teams (Cubs, Phillies, and Mets) come closest.

The final table displays the dollars spent per WAR of all of the Cardinals players who managed positive WAR values on the season and either had 100 PA or 30 IP.  Everyone above the bolded line provided more wins per dollar than was required for the Cardinals to reach the playoffs and everyone below it provided less.  Ludwick and Westbrook had their salaries prorated to time spent with St. Louis and their WAR represents production only while playing for the Cardinals.

Table 2: Dollar per WAR Cost of Cardinals Players with a Positive WAR

Name WAR Salary $/WAR
Jaime Garcia 2.8 $400,000 $142,857
Colby Rasmus 2.9 $418,000 $144,138
David Freese 1.7 $400,000 $235,294
Kyle McClellan 1.8 $425,000 $236,111
Jason Motte 1.5 $411,000 $274,000
Brendan Ryan 0.9 $425,000 $472,222
Jon Jay 0.8 $400,000 $500,000
Adam Wainwright 5.7 $4,837,500 $848,684
Jeff Suppan 0.3 $400,000 $1,333,333
Mitchell Boggs 0.3 $402,000 $1,340,000
Yadier Molina 3.1 $4,312,500 $1,391,129
Ryan Ludwick 2.2 $3,633,333 $1,651,515
Albert Pujols 7.2 $14,595,953 $2,027,216
Cardinals Playoff Needs 37.9 $93,540,751 $2,468,094
Matt Holliday 5.5 $16,333,327 $2,969,696
Ryan Franklin 0.8 $3,050,000 $3,812,500
Jake Westbrook 0.9 $3,666,667 $4,074,074
Skip Schumaker 0.4 $2,000,000 $5,000,000
Dennys Reyes 0.4 $2,000,000 $5,000,000
Chris Carpenter 3.0 $15,840,971 $5,280,324
Brad Penny 0.6 $7,500,000 $12,500,000

Again, along with the pre-arbitration year contributors, veterans Wainwright, Molina, Ludwick, Pujols, and Suppan provided more than enough value to help the Cardinals reach the playoffs.  Everyone else fell short, including negative WAR players such as Felipe Lopez, Pedro Feliz, Blake Hawksworth, and Kyle Lohse.  Although this metric obscures just how helpful and harmful each player’s production was to the team, it matches the results of the data provided in the previous article in a format hopefully more palatable to all.

In summation, the Cardinals came close to reaching the playoffs in 2010.  In order to reach the postseason in 2011, they will either need to increase their salary in relation to the other National League teams so as to decrease the required efficiency of their contracts ($/WAR) or they will need to find a way to spend the same amount of money more efficiently.  That means accomplishing much more than simply spending free agent market rates for their players.  It means developing and/or acquiring bargains.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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