In the first installment of the article, I talked about some of the observations seen in the overall ten-year period between 1999 and 2008. Today I’m going to look at some of the more interesting lines between 1999 and 2003, the first-half of that decade.
Most Efficient Team: 1999 Kansas City Royals
Payroll (Adj. 2008): $21.3M
W-L Record: 64-97
Runs Scored: 856
Runs Allowed: 921
PythagenPat Win%: .464
Marg. dollars per run: $17.9K
This might actually have been one of the best 64-97 teams I’ve ever seen. The Royals had a run differential more suited to a 75 win team, but as luck would have it they came out as a team far worse than they should have been. The team posted a respectable .344 wOBA, good for 15th in the majors (aka, dead in the middle), led by excellent hitting from Mike Sweeney (.395 wOBA), Johnny Damon (.380), and Jermaine Dye (.373). They had some nice regulars that of course would become big parts of later teams as their careers developed.
But it was the pitching that was the team’s downfall. A 5.31 FIP was good for second to last in the majors. The team’s rotation was led by such luminaries as Jose Rosado (4.39 FIP) and the immortal Jeff Suppan (4.88 FIP, sounds about right for Suppan in general), while the bullpen was a walking disaster, with no one posting close to a league average FIP.
Perhaps less important than their performance was that efficiently spen money. Remember that the baseline dollar total per win using replacement level talent is $250K per win (approx. 48 wins for a replacement level team and $400K per roster spot). When correcting for 2008 dollars, that total becomes $32.3K per win. What’s intriguing is that the Royals spent less on their players ($17.9M per win) than a replacement level team spent on theirs. In fact, four teams, the Royals, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, and Minnesota Twins, did so that season. The only time this happened was in 1999, signaling that baseball salaries slowly increased in real value over the course of ten years. It also showed that teams were getting more than replacement value using their rookies and prospects, which is of no surprise.
However, this efficiency can really only be attributed to an artificially low payroll; none of the four teams mentioned made the playoffs and the teams collectively posted four of the five worst records in the majors that season.
Least Efficient Team: 2003 Detroit Tigers
Payroll (Adj. 2008): $57.5M
W-L Record: 43-119
Runs Scored: 591
Runs Allowed: 928
PythagenPat Win%: .299
Marg. dollars per run: $3.59M
This should come as no surprise to anyone. The Detroit Tigers were the worst team in recent baseball memory, and it isn’t even close. The team had a collective .240/.300/.375 line, an 83 OPS+, a .294 wOBA, and what can only be the worst offense since integration (I hope). The best hitter, Dmitri Young, had a .380 wOBA, but no other player registered a wOBA above .340, and only four other regulars had wOBA’s over .300.
And their pitching staff wasn’t much better. A 5.01 FIP was good for 29th in the majors, and the team’s collective ERA+ was a meager 81, 19% worse than league average! I don’t even want to go into details, it’s so horrible.
What makes this season even more comical (or saddening if you’re a Tigers fan or have some sort of heart) is that the Tigers shelled out a decent amount of money that season, at least mid-market type money for a team that won less real games than our theoretical replacement level team. The Tiger’s run differential afforded them 1.2 extra wins above replacement, which was paid for by the about $42M worth of salary! Their highest paid player, outfielder Bobby Higgginson, gave the team a .300 wOBA and 0.6 WAR, costing the team $13.87M 2008 dollars, or about $23.1M dollars per Bobby Higginson win.
Most Efficient World Series Champ: 2002 Anaheim Angels
Payroll (Adj. 2008): $73.9M
W-L Record: 99-63
Runs Scored: 851
Runs Allowed: 644
PythagenPat Win%: .628%
Marg. dollars per run: $107.8K
The 2002 Angels barely edged out the 2003 Marlins for most efficient World Series champ of the half decade by around $1K. Last season’s WS was lauded as the grand opening of defense as an important statistic, but these 2002 Angels should have been the poster boys long before the 2008 Rays. The Angels were middle of the pack in pitching, posting a 4.57 team FIP and a team wOBA of .323, but the team saved approximately 38 runs on the year over an average defense by UZR, ranking fifth in both UZR and the rate UZR stat UZR/150. The team they beat in the WS, the San Francisco Giants, were even moreso dependent on their defense, showing 63 runs savedd by UZR. So this World Series showed that defense was valuable well before the Phillies and Rays flashed the collective gloves in 2008.
Least Efficient World Series Champ: 2000 New York Yankees
Payroll (Adj. 2008): $116.2M
W-L Record: 87-74
Runs Scored: 871
Runs Allowed: 814
PythagenPat Win%: .533
Marg. dollars per run: $233.5K
This is actually one of the worst Yankee teams in the decade by run differential, almost on par with the 2004 and 2008 models. This squad ran into a similar Mets squad and dominated them on the way to another World Series title, their last of the decade. The club averaged a .350 wOBA and 4.61 FIP in a higher scoring run environment (10 R/g average), which put the Yankees at about league average pitching and above average hitters. That season the Giants and Mariners made the playoffs with highly efficient teams ($117K and $94K per run respectively) but neither of those teams were very effective come playoff time.
Next time, I’ll explore some of the extremities of the second half of the decade.