June 20, 2013
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Monday, December 31, 2012
Last week, I discussed the issue of teams "going for broke" and how significant increases in payroll may affect overall success (win totals). One of the more interesting findings in that piece dealt with teams who had great success the season before they increased payroll.
I found that from 2001 to 2012 there were 28 teams who won at least 88 games in the year before they increased payroll by at least 20 percent. Of those 28 teams, only 14 teams were able to get back to that 88-win threshold in the subsequent season.
This result sounds surprising when taken at face value. In most cases, the assumption would be that the increase in payroll was an attempt to prevent regression and sustain, or build on, past success.
Based on the results I found in that piece, I concluded that the increase in payroll had no real effect on a team's ability to sustain success.
Over at the Book Blog, Tom Tango pointed out a major flaw in that conclusion, namely the lack of a control group:
Specifically, in one test, he finds a bunch of playoff teams that adds alot of money, and he still finds that a good portions wins fewer games. But, even if they did not add alot of money, they would STILL win fewer games. That’s regression toward the mean at work. If you take a group of teams that win 88+ games, you will find, on average, that they will win less in the next season. This is because teams that win 88+ games are teams that have both more good players than bad players and more good luck than bad luck. The next season, the luck will cancel out, so, all other things equal, are expected to win fewer games.Tango's response brought me not to a different question, but instead a much better way of answering my original question. Instead of comparing successful teams that then increased payroll to themselves, I included every team that won 88 games from 2001-12 in the sample for a more illuminating comparison.
On average since 2001, the 113 teams that won at least 88 games in one season won 6.6 fewer games in the next season. This result was expected because of regression toward the mean that Tango discussed.
Despite this regression, 63 of the 113 teams (55.7 percent) were able to reach the 88-win threshold again in the subsequent season.
Does an increase in payroll have any effect on reducing the regression toward the mean?
As suggested by Tango, I broke the sample into three subsets:
As you can see, the number of teams in each subset was pretty close to evenly distributed. Quite surprising, though, is the subset of teams that were the most successful in preventing regression toward the mean in the subsequent season.
The control group of teams that did not increase payroll or actually decreased payroll, had the smallest average drop-off in wins from the previous season.
The last column in the table shows the percent of teams in each subset that was able to get back to 88 wins after reaching that plateau in the previous season. The control group also lead in this category with the highest percentage of teams, 58.3 percent, that were able to (sort of) maintain their success.
The results for teams that substantially increased their payroll (by 15 percent or more), surprisingly, were below the average for the entire sample.
Interestingly, improving the structure of the test resulted in the exact same conclusion as the one from the original study. Based on the results found in this study, it seems that increasing payroll has no real effect on a team's ability to sustain success and dodge the regression-toward-the-mean bullet in the subsequent season.
All payroll information comes courtesy of Baseball Prospectus' Compensation Tables.
Forty years ago today was the saddest New Year’s Eve in Major League Baseball history. On Dec. 31, 1972, longtime Pirates star Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash.
Clemente had just finished a season in which he’d hit .312 in a full-time role, not bad for a man who turned 38 years old in August. It was his 14th straight season batting over .290. Rather famously, Clemente joined the 3,000-hit club with his last hit in the 1972 season. (His career didn’t end there, though, as the Pirates won the division and lost the NLCS in heartbreaking fashion to the Reds in a full five games.)
It wasn’t just any plane crash that Clemente died in, either. Making the tragedy even sadder, the plane was on a humanitarian mission. Eight days earlier, Managua, Nicaragua had suffered a massive earthquake that killed several thousand people.
Though not a native of the country (Clemente was from the island of Puerto Rico), Clemente felt a strong desire to help. After all, he’d visited Managua shortly after the 1972 NLCS. Clemente arranged a series of emergency relief flights to help the people.
He hadn’t been on any of those flights, though. Under normal circumstances there would be no need for Clemente to be on this flight, either. But the circumstances were far from normal. In fact, they were rather nasty, making the circumstances of Clemente’s death even worse.
You see, though Clemente had arranged for three flights to go to Nicaragua, to date none of the supplies had reached the victims. Oh, the flights took off all right, they all landed in Nicaragua with no problem, and they were loaded with supplies to help people. But those supplies never go to those in need. Instead, officials in the Somoza regime gobbled them up for their own benefit, hording or selling them at exhorbitant prices. They literally were profiting from the death and misery of the masses. (On a side note, the blatant corruption helped fuel an ongoing rebellion, which forced the regime from power by the end of the decade).
Clemente didn't sent the planes for the government to steals, so that’s why he went on the fourth flight—to make sure the supplies reached those in need. Maybe the officials wouldn’t dare rip off the victims with a prominent celebrity athlete in their midst.
The plane Clemente chartered had some mechanical problems and was overloaded by two tons. Immediately after takeoff from Clemente’s home island of Puerto Rico, it crashed. Clemente died, and his body was never found.
It was a sad day 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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