By Joe Schwarz
For this post, I will revisit the statistic/measure I used in my Matt Holliday post back in September–$/WAR. However, I will be applying it to teams instead of just individual players. If you have not already read my Holliday post, the link is provided above, but I will explain the premise behind the statistic here anyway.
In short, a team pays a player to provide wins above what a replacement-level player will provide to the team. Thus, how much does each team pay for the WAR provided by its players on their payroll? Basically, a lower $/WAR is desired because it means that the team is getting the most out of their players at the right price and in other words, they are paying less per win above replacement.
As an aside, I know that there is a statistic out there for "Team WAR," but for the sake of this post, I simply added up every players' individual WAR and made this the team's "combined player WAR." Then to find each team's $/WAR, I divided each team's 2013 payroll (per Baseball Prospectus) by their "combined player WAR."
Well, John Mozeliak is pretty darn good at what he does, but upon further review, how does he compare to some of the other general managers around the league? If I had more time, I would have compared the Cardinals to every single team, but unfortunately, as a student, I do not. Thus, I compared the Cardinals to the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Rays, Athletics, and the Nationals.
I picked the Red Sox since they are the World Series Champions, and I wanted to see how the Cardinals stacked up against them. I picked the Angels because I think their General Manager, Jerry Dipoto, makes some really silly moves. I picked the Dodgers because they have the highest payroll in baseball, and then I picked the last three at the request of some of my followers on Twitter.
St. Louis Cardinals: $2.88 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $116,505,000
Combined Player WAR: 40.4
Sounds like a lot doesn't it? $2.88 million spent to get one win above replacement? To be honest, I thought so too.
Boston Red Sox: $2.54 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $150,655,000
Combined Player WAR: 59.3 WAR
Los Angeles Dodgers: $5.23 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $223,126,072
Combined Player WAR: 42.7 WAR
Los Angeles Angels: $3.82 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $141,039,107
Combined Player WAR: 36.9 WAR
Tampa Bay Rays: $1.33 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,928,975
Combined Player WAR: 46.7
Oakland Athletics: $1.39 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,964,500
Combined Player WAR: 44.5
Washington Nationals: $3.25 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $118,289,679
Combined Player WAR: 36.4
As you can see, the Cardinals did pretty well. They were fourth on the list, but this list included low-payroll teams like the Rays and the Athletics, so they obviously faced some stiff competition. Teams with lower payrolls have a better chance at having a lower $/WAR than teams with higher payrolls as long as their players produce solid WAR's. Both the Athletics and Rays prove this by having such a low $/WAR and the fact that both made the playoffs in 2013.
It's pretty fitting that the Red Sox were more "cost-effective" than the Cardinals despite having almost $35 million more on their payroll. After all, they did beat the Cardinals in the World Series, so they had to be pretty cost-effective in 2013, especially compared to their flawed 2012 roster.
The Dodgers made the NLCS in 2013, which can be considered a very successful season. However, it took them $5.23 million per win above replacement. This is nearly four times as much as it cost both the Rays and the Athletics, and over 2 million more per WAR than Mozeliak and the Cardinals.
Despite having the 6th highest payroll in baseball, the Angels finished six games under five hundred and 18 games back from the American League West Champion Athletics. Why? Because Jerry Dipoto has made some questionable signings in his career with the Angels. In 2013, he paid Joe Blanton $6.5 million for -0.4 WAR and Jered Weaver $16.2 million for 2.4 WAR. For perspective, Lance Lynn made just $513,000 in 2013 while providing 3.3 WAR for the Cardinals. Josh Hamilton made $17.4 million and only had a 1.9 WAR. Finally, Albert Pujols made $16 million and only had a 0.7 WAR.
Enough with the discussion of other teams, this is a Cardinal blog after all. Let's take a closer look at the Cardinals. In 2013, the Cardinals best value came from the infield. They only paid $1.62 million per WAR, and this includes Furcal's $7.5 million that contributed 0 WAR. Without Furcal, the Cardinals' infield would have cost an incredible $882,000 per WAR–largely due to Matt Carpenter's breakout season.
How about the pitchers? They cost $3.26 million per WAR. Take Jason Motte's $4.5 million and Chris Carpenter's $10.5 million out of the equation, they would have cost only $2.37 million per WAR. The catchers? $2.94 million per WAR. Though Yadier Molina had a 5.6 WAR, the backups both had negative WAR's, Tony Cruz at -0.2 and Rob Johnson at -0.3.
Finally, the outfielders. With two big-money contracts in Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran, one would expect this to be the highest $/WAR on the team, and it was, but because of how good Holliday and Beltran were, it wasn't by much. The outfield cost the Cardinals $3.42 million per WAR.
The least cost-effective position for the Cardinals last season was the outfield. This will likely change in 2013 with high-priced Beltran leaving via free agency. Peter Bourjos will receive just over the league minimum at $512,500, Jon Jay will make a little over $3 million, and Allen Craig is set to make $2.75 million. I wouldn't be surprised if the outfield is the most cost-effective position for the Cardinals next season–especially if Oscar Taveras is finally able to make an impact with the big league club.
There you have it, a pretty in-depth breakdown of teams' payrolls and the subsequent value that their players provide. Don't get me wrong, Mozeliak is a terrific GM, one of the best in the business, but I hope this post showed, via statistical data, how good some other GMs are as well–namely Billy Beane (of the A's) and Andrew Friedman (of the Rays).
I really hope you enjoyed this piece because it took quite some time to produce. If you know of other Cardinal fans that may be interested in this piece, feel free to share it with them!