Using marginal wins to evaluate the Mariners
Sooooooooo, I’ve seen comments that ask “isn’t there some way to measure how much money the M’s are wasting?” or “Can’t we use salary to evaluate GMs?” and so on.
Yes. Fortunately, the heavy lifting on this has already been done for us, probably best by Doug Pappas, who in 2004 wrote a great essay in that year’s Baseball Prospectus. He proposed that we look at how much each additional win cost a team, compared to a team made up of league-minimum players, who would go about .300 on the season. That team wins 49 games and costs $10.5m to field (I know… I’ll get to that). So if you spend another $10m and get 10 wins, you’re paying $1m/win.
Right now, the M’s are on track to win 57 games and pay $118m (rounded!) to do it, for a cost of $13m/marginal win.
The next-highest is the Yankees at $5.6m, followed by the Tigers at $5m, the Dodgers at $4m, the Mets at $3.8m… and at the other extreme, you have the Marlins, paying only $.3m/marginal win, the Rays, at $.7m, and the Athletics, at $1m. The average is about $3m.
The Mariners are on track to pay more than twice as much for a win as any other team in baseball, and four times what the average team pays.
But if you’re skeptical that you could field a team on a $11m payroll budget, I understand entirely. You have to spend on minor league free agents, and bringing non-roster guys into camp, and so on.
Assume then that the Marlins’ budget of $22m is the least you can possibly spend to get a team on the field, and that team would go .300. The Marlins then have to be dropped from the chart, because they’re getting an infinite return on their marginal dollar.
The M’s would then spend $11.7m/win, still over twice as much as the Yankees, and about five times as much as the league average.
That’s an amazingly bad return on their investment, and if the ownership group only looks at one metric, I recommend that: the M’s get half as much for their payroll dollar as any other team, and the people who did it can’t tell you what happened, except to say that they got unlucky. Again.