Ben Murphy, who is a fine fellow and highly recommended, wrote up this year’s Marginal Wins article at Baseball Prospectus, continuing the work of Doug Pappas, who I hung out with at the Mariners game where the power went out, and was a fine fellow himself.
To spoil the article for you: marginal wins is a measure of how well a team spent their money. It’s cool because it doesn’t care where you get your wins, or how you went about constructing the team. All that matters is how many wins you got, and how much money it took you go get those wins, compared to how much money you’d have to spend on a team of minimum-salary guys who’d lose many, many games.
The Mariners were second-worst in the majors, with $5,079,433/marginal win. The A’s spent $1,212,858. The average team spends about $1,855,682 for every marginal win.
There are some drawbacks to marginal wins in evaluating the worth of a front office, particularly in that a GM can inherit a lot of really bad contracts and that’ll show up (and conversely, a GM taking over a team with a good, deep farm system will have quality, cheap players they may not have been responsible for developing). But even then, it’s an excellent metric for how relatively good an organization has done assembling their team and running their operations.
And the 2004 Mariners were awwwwwwwwwwwwwful.