Thursday, October 2, 2014

And Then There Was One


Following last night's evisceration of the Pirates*, the eight teams entering the Divisional Series round are set. As I commented in my postseason preview:
I am a sucker for small-market, low-payroll teams. This year, only three teams made the postseason with payrolls below the major league median of $95.8 million: The Royals ($89.3 million), the A's ($74.9 million), and the Pirates ($71.5 million). Those three teams were 17th, 26th, and 27th in total payroll. 
Now the A's are gone and the Pirates are gone. Kansas City's up against the team with the best record in the American League, the Los Angeles Angels, so the Royals may be gone soon as well. Here's a list of this year's payrolls (I threw in attendance, number of All-Stars, and average game time for fun), with playoff teams highlighted:
Tm Attendance #A-S Est. Payroll ▾ Time
LAD 3,782,337 4 $212,972,000 3:14
NYY 3,401,624 3 $207,843,459 3:12
PHI 2,423,852 1 $168,837,500 3:09
DET 2,917,209 4 $163,635,500 3:14
BOS 2,956,089 2 $152,634,500 3:17
SFG 3,368,697 3 $145,141,667 3:05
TOR 2,375,525 3 $136,466,200 3:01
TEX 2,718,733 2 $135,288,839 3:06
WSN 2,579,389 2 $129,145,000 3:05
LAA 3,095,935 2 $123,492,000 3:15
BAL 2,464,473 3 $105,572,500 3:07
ARI 2,073,730 2 $105,550,000 3:03
ATL 2,354,305 3 $103,500,250 3:04
CIN 2,476,664 5 $102,860,000 3:03
STL 3,540,649 4 $99,990,000 3:03
MIL 2,797,384 4 $91,625,000 3:07
KCR 1,956,482 3 $89,271,575 3:02
SEA 2,064,334 4 $87,723,400 2:59
COL 2,680,329 2 $87,137,500 3:12
MIN 2,250,606 2 $84,044,000 3:07
CLE 1,437,393 1 $83,413,233 3:12
NYM 2,148,808 1 $80,862,500 3:08
CHW 1,650,821 3 $80,475,500 3:08
SDP 2,195,373 2 $78,043,000 3:01
TBR 1,446,464 1 $77,825,500 3:19
OAK 2,003,628 6 $74,895,900 3:05
PIT 2,442,564 3 $71,545,000 3:09
CHC 2,652,113 3 $64,955,000 3:12
HOU 1,751,829 1 $43,736,800 3:10
MIA 1,732,283 2 $31,100,000 3:05
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2014.

A few observations:

  • I'll bet you most people don't know that the Yankees were not the highest-paid team this year.
  • Money can't buy me love: Spending a lot on payroll does not guarantee success. Two of the five highest-spending clubs, and three of the top eight, were last-place teams.
  • That being said, every team except Kansas City had an above-median payroll. Of the 30 major league teams, every playoff team was in the top 17 for payroll.
  • I look at some of those teams on the bottom and think, Man, it's almost impossible for them to compete year after year. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Pittsburgh--real smart front offices, stuck in divisions with teams with seemingly unlimited financial resources.
  • Colorado, Minnesota, the White Sox, San Diego, Miami: These teams are also payroll-constrained, and they lack the front office wiles of the teams listed above, at least of late.
  • At some point, of course, the Mets, Cubs and Astros will vault into the high-payroll echelon, though it may take a change of ownership for the Madoff-tainted Metropolitans.
  • About some of the teams still playing: Despite the ridiculous Pujols, Wilson, and Hamilton contracts, the Angels are only tenth in payroll. Detroit, the city, is bankrupt, but Detroit, the baseball team, sure isn't. The Cardinals are not, regardless of what they may claim, a small-market team. Well, they're small market in terms of the city of St. Louis, but not in terms of the ballclub.
Does this matter? Probably not. This isn't a case of the richest teams dominating the postseason, and baseball's annual champion has turned over more frequently than those of other sports. So there aren't money-fueled dynasties. But it sure would be nice to see a small-market, low-payroll team compete well into October.

*For a supremely entertaining review of the game, check out Sam Miller's article today at Baseball Prospectus. The article may be behind a paywall, but Miller's analysis alone is worth the subscription. He points out, among other things, that Giants starter Madison Bumgarner pitched a shutout, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out ten. That's the second time that's happened in the postseason. The other pitcher to have accomplished it is Sandy Koufax.

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