David Schoenfield of ESPN presented an interesting analysis the other day. Though fairly basic in scope, it provides the opportunity to draw some conclusions that may be surprising.
Schoenfield took season-opening player payrolls for each Major League Baseball team over the last five years and summed them. He then ranked the 30 clubs during that same period by the total number of regular-season wins.
Not unexpectedly, the St. Louis Cardinals came in fifth in wins with 452, but were 11th in payroll during that time. The latter is pretty consistent with where the club resides most years in relation to its peers.
Your initial reaction may depend on whether you are a glass-half full or half-empty kind of person.
The pessimist might assert that if the team had spent a bit more, perhaps they could have won even more games. (During those five years, the Cardinals had two first-place divisional finishes and came in second-place the other three times. In two of the second-place years, they earned a Wild Card berth.)
The optimist might applaud the team for its efficiency – seemingly getting more for less – while qualifying for October play in four of the five seasons.
If you are in the latter category, wait a minute. This is not the time to hold another celebration about the Cardinals being the game’s very best at everything they touch.
In this case, they aren’t. As Schoenfield points out, three of the teams just ahead of the Cardinals in regular-season wins actually spent less on payroll than did St. Louis over the last five years.
|Win rank||Team||Wins||Spend rank||Spend|
|1||New York Yankees||475||1||$1.06 B|
|2||Texas Rangers||457||12||$471.2 MM|
|3||Atlanta Braves||456||14||$455.1 MM|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays||453||26||$303.8 MM|
|5||St. Louis Cardinals||452||11||$520.4 MM|
Granted, the four clubs ranked second through fifth are tightly bunched in victories. With just six more wins over the last five years in total, the Cards could have moved up to second in that category.
The New York Yankees stand alone on top in both wins and spending. The Bombers spent almost twice as much as the Cardinals for a total of 23 incremental regular-season victories over the most recent five seasons.
One has to wonder how much the Cardinals may improve in spending efficiency over the next few years, as the roster has evolved toward being younger and less experienced. Playing consistent winning baseball while keeping salary growth in check would be a formula any owner should gladly embrace.
(Make sure you check out Schoenfield’s pair of articles for comparable details for all 30 MLB clubs.)