Moneyball: An In-Depth Look Inside the World Series
“Do we need to have 280 brands of breakfast cereal? No, probably not. But we have them for a reason – because some people like them. It’s the same with baseball statistics.”
Numbers never lie, do they? Baseball is a statistics heavy sport. Everything from the simple hits and runs to the more in depth Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Strikeouts/Win (SO/W).
Common sense says the World Series winner would be a leader in most statistics. Teams cannot win games by being average—especially in the playoffs. Is there a way to get the statistics needed to win without spending ridiculous amounts of money?
The New York Yankees had the highest payroll in the league from 1999-2013, but won only three championships (1999, 2000, 2009). They lost in the World Series two other times (2001, 2003).
The Yankees are the extreme case. They are the only team in the past 10 years who had the highest payroll and won the World Series. In the past 10 matchups, only five teams have appeared that had a top five payroll in the league. Four of them won.
The average payroll for the American League Champion in the past 10 years is $112,702,439. The National League spent nearly $9 million less at $103,689,238.
Since 2004, the 2005 White Sox and 2008 Phillies are the lowest ranked teams in terms of payroll. They were both 13th in the league.
Payroll is important, but owners are looking at the statistics with each season.
One statistic that owners like to see is amount spent per win. It is important to get production without spending exorbitant amounts of money. On average, the winner of the World Series has spent $1,220,461 on every win. It takes an average of 105 wins to get the championship. That means a team needs a payroll of $127,593,685 to have a good chance.
In 2014, that would mean only 10 teams had a chance of winning the World Series.
The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays had the lowest payroll of any team to make the World Series since 2004. They spent $417,339 per win that year.
In 2009, the Yankees won the World Series, but spent $1,767,099 per win. That is 423% higher than the Rays.
Based on those figures, the Rays should have never made it to the World Series. But the statistics tell a different story.
“Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything.”
The Rays pitching ranked second in the AL in many categories and were in the top five in nearly every major statistic.
They were second in ERA (3.82), saves (52), hits given (1,349), runs (671) and earned runs (618).
The pitching had to make up for an offense that didn’t produce World Series numbers. The team had a .260 batting average and cracked the top five in the AL in two categories: on-base percentage and times hit by pitch. Only one American League team ranked below the Rays that season in batting average.
Nearly every team in the World Series shows the same trend. The offense or defense puts up lackluster numbers and the other keeps them afloat.
The 2007 Rockies had some of the worst pitching in the NL. They had a 4.32 ERA and gave up more than 750 runs. However, their offense ranked among the best in the NL. The Rockies had the highest batting average, on base percentage and OPS.
Two teams had great offenses and defenses that carried them through the postseason: the 2004 Red Sox and Cardinals, a series that saw the two best teams statistically, but fell flat when the Red Sox swept the series.
The Red Sox had the second most strikeouts in the AL, the fewest home runs given up and the fewest hits. Their offense had the second highest average, the best on base percentage, slugging percentage and total bases (2,702). In the past 10 series, only one team had more total bases: the 2009 Yankees (2,703).
“Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine.” ~Pat Conroy
The formula for winning the World Series comes down to this: have enough money to spend on either offense or defense. As long as one is strong enough to make up for the other, you don’t need to be the best in everything statistically.
However, that will take a lot of money. Other than a few exceptions, it’s going to take more than $1 million per win to get the championship and some teams just can’t afford that.