In a great big goody bag of an article, Peter Bernstein at ESPN the Magazine looks at the most and least cost-effective teams of the past ten years and figures out just how much spending correlates with winning. A passage to keep in mind as you prepare to shift from winter Yankee outrage to spring Yankee outrage:
We also looked at the connection between opening day payroll and making the playoffs. The results were similar—spending helps, but it’s no guarantee of reaching the postseason. In fact, the link between payroll and playoffs has gotten weaker over time . . . Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, 14 were in the top third of payrolls. In other words, 70 percent of the high spenders made the playoffs in those years while virtually none of the lower two-thirds of spenders went anywhere. But that was then. Since the start of this decade only 40% of top third of spenders have made the playoffs since the start of this decade. In fact, the top payroll teams in 2008 (Yankees, Mets, and Tigers) all failed to reach the post-season.
Yes, there is an advantage to spending more money, but buying a playoff slot — let alone a championship — is an inexact science. Given how big a part luck plays in baseball — CC and Tex could crash their golf carts into each other with each breaking their femurs this spring — I think it’s silly to say that the system is truly broken, even if it isn’t ideal.