CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Sobsequy: When You Lea... (02/08)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (02/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (02/10)
Next Article >>
The BP Broadside: Pard... (02/08)

February 8, 2012

Prospectus Hit and Run

Rising Payrolls of the Post-Collusion Era

by Jay Jaffe

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Last time out, I examined the 2012 Mets' Opening Day payroll drop—projected to exceed $50 million—and placed it in the context of other drastic payroll cuts dating back to 1989, since my source for the payroll data, the USA Today Salary Database went back to 1988. Given data that went further back, I’d have liked to place the teardowns of the A's dynasties of the 1910s, 1930s, and 1970s—are there any other dismantlings so famous?—into a similar context, but as one Twitter follower said, we go to war with the data we have. Today I turn my attention to the flip side of the story, the largest payroll increases during a timespan that conveniently stands as the point when baseball was just emerging from its collusion scandal.

Historically speaking, at least within the time period under discussion, it's a whole lot easier for a ballclub to increase payroll than to decrease it, since major-league salaries have been rising faster than the rate of inflation for decades. To refresh your memory, here's the lay of the land going back to 1988. All payrolls cited here and throughout the rest of the article refer to Opening Day payrolls:

As with the list of the largest drops of the period, any attempt to rank the largest payroll increases from a dollar standpoint winds up concentrated in the recent past, though in this case, not quite as heavily:

Rank

Year

Team

Payroll

Increase

1

2008

Tigers

$137.7

$42.5

2

1999

Diamondbacks

$70.4

$41.4

3

2010

Red Sox

$162.4

$40.7

4

2011

Rangers

$92.3

$37.0

5

2001

White Sox

$65.6

$34.5

6

2011

Angels

$138.5

$33.6

7

2010

Twins

$97.6

$32.3

8

2004

Yankees

$184.2

$31.4

9

2001

Pirates

$57.8

$31.2

10

2011

Phillies

$173.0

$31.0

11

2001

Blue Jays

$76.9

$30.5

12

2010

Phillies

$141.9

$28.9

13

2001

Red Sox

$109.7

$28.5

14

2006

White Sox

$102.8

$27.6

15

2004

Red Sox

$127.3

$27.4

16

2003

Yankees

$152.7

$26.8

17

2000

Tigers

$61.7

$26.8

18

1999

Rangers

$81.3

$26.6

19

2000

Devil Rays

$64.4

$26.6

20

2006

Blue Jays

$71.9

$26.2

Seven of the above teams are from the 2008-2011 period, including three apiece from each of the past two seasons. By comparison, the list of the largest cuts in dollar terms featured 10 teams from that recent stretch, a time when payroll growth slowed, largely due to the sluggish economy. While all of the teams on the list above are from 1999 or later, they’re also a bit more evenly distributed at the other end of the spectrum that’s represented; eight are from the 1999-2001 period—not coincidentally, the steepest part of the average payroll graph, a time when baseball was booming as the 1994-1995 player strike and the rancor surrounding it receded into the rearview mirror. Only one of the top 20 payroll cuts of all time, the 12th-ranked 1998 Reds, took place in that stretch.

By contrast, the list of largest rises by percentage is downright ancient, with 18 of the 20 teams hailing from 2001 or earlier, one of them as far back as 1989. Note that the dollar amount of some of the increases 20-some years ago might equal what an arbitration-eligible player makes today:

Rank

Year

Team

Payroll

Increase ($)

Increase (%)

1

1994

Rockies

$23.0

$14.2

160.3%

2

1999

Diamondbacks

$70.4

$41.4

143.2%

3

2001

Pirates

$57.8

$31.2

117.5%

4

1993

Astros

$28.9

$15.5

116.1%

5

2001

White Sox

$65.6

$34.5

110.6%

6

2000

Nationals

$33.5

$17.2

104.9%

7

2007

Marlins

$30.5

$15.5

103.4%

8

1990

Brewers

$20.0

$9.6

93.0%

9

1995

Padres

$25.9

$12.4

91.6%

10

1999

Reds

$42.1

$20.1

91.6%

11

1993

Indians

$15.7

$7.5

90.8%

12

1991

Cubs

$26.9

$12.4

85.7%

13

2008

Rays

$43.8

$19.7

81.7%

14

1994

Indians

$28.5

$12.8

81.3%

15

2001

Marlins

$35.6

$15.7

79.0%

16

1989

Rangers

$10.7

$4.7

77.9%

17

1999

Nationals

$16.4

$7.2

77.8%

18

1991

White Sox

$16.8

$7.3

77.2%

19

2000

Tigers

$61.7

$26.8

76.6%

20

1999

Pirates

$24.2

$10.5

76.1%

Of the two post-2001 teams on the list, one is the 2007 Marlins, the immediate successor of the team with the largest percentage cut (75.2 percent) on record. The other also hails from Florida, the newly-exorcised 2008 Rays, who flushed the Devil out of their name, upgraded their bullpen and their defense, and turned into a pennant winner.

In an attempt to create a more authoritative list of the biggest payroll spikes of the post-1988 period while controlling for the long-term rise in salaries, I used a method that averaged the standard deviations of the year-to-year increases (or decreases) in payroll in both percentage and dollar terms as a means of connecting those swings to the industry conditions under which they took place. Rather than devise another example or paraphrase what I wrote before, I'll simply quote myself:

Take the Rays, who went from a $71.9 million payroll in 2010 to a $41.1 million payroll in 2011. The standard deviation in 2010-to-2011 payroll changes for all 30 teams was a record $17.3 million, reflecting a year that in dollar terms featured some relatively large cuts and gains; historically speaking, six of the 17 swings of $30 million or more in either direction took place last year, the Rays among them. Their drop was −1.78 times that year's standard deviation. Meanwhile, in percentage terms, the standard deviation in 2010-to-2011 payroll changes for all 30 teams was 22.4 percent, which is on the low side of recent history; the size of those swings is obviously connected to the increased size of the payrolls. The Rays' 42.9 percent drop was −1.92 times the standard deviation. Average −1.78 and −1.92 together—because I'm weighting the approaches equally—and you get −1.85. The Rays' drop was 1.85 standard deviations below the average year-to-year change of the 1989-2011 sample.

I'm calling this new number the Change in Annual Payroll (CAP) score. Here's a list of the top 20 CAPs from 1989-2011:

Rk

Year

Team

Payroll

Increase (%)

Increase ($)

CAP

W-L

WPCT

dWPCT

1

1990

Brewers

$20.0

93.0%

$9.6

4.24

74-88

.457

-.043

2

1994

Rockies

$23.0

160.3%

$14.2

3.42

53-64

.453

.039

3

1999

Diamondbacks

$70.4

143.2%

$41.4

3.22

100-62

.617

.216

4

1991

Cubs

$26.9

85.7%

$12.4

3.19

77-83

.481

.006

5

1990

Royals

$23.9

54.8%

$8.4

3.07

75-86

.466

-.102

6

2000

Tigers

$61.7

76.6%

$26.8

3.02

79-83

.488

.059

7

1993

Astros

$28.9

116.1%

$15.5

3.02

85-77

.525

.025

8

2001

White Sox

$65.6

110.6%

$34.5

3.01

83-79

.512

-.074

9

2000

Nationals

$33.5

104.9%

$17.2

2.99

67-95

.414

-.006

10

2001

Pirates

$57.8

117.5%

$31.2

2.98

62-100

.383

-.043

11

1991

Athletics

$33.6

68.3%

$13.6

2.98

84-78

.519

-.117

12

1990

Indians

$15.2

69.7%

$6.2

2.97

77-85

.475

.024

13

2000

Devil Rays

$64.4

70.3%

$26.6

2.89

69-92

.429

.003

14

1995

Padres

$25.9

91.6%

$12.4

2.83

70-74

.486

.084

15

2007

Marlins

$30.5

103.4%

$15.5

2.77

71-91

.438

-.043

16

1992

Blue Jays

$43.7

58.6%

$16.1

2.72

96-66

.593

.031

17

1989

Rangers

$10.7

77.9%

$4.7

2.71

83-79

.512

.077

18

1991

Reds

$25.4

71.8%

$10.6

2.69

74-88

.457

-.105

19

1990

Angels

$21.9

48.6%

$7.2

2.66

80-82

.494

-.068

20

1990

Giants

$20.9

48.6%

$6.8

2.59

85-77

.525

-.043

21

2011

Rangers

$92.3

67.1%

$37.0

2.57

96-66

.593

.037

I've extended the list to 21 spots for two different reasons. First, it's still heavily skewed toward teams at least 10 years in the past, but I didn't have to go much further to come up with a more contemporary example in the 2011 Rangers; the aforementioned Marlins are the only other post-2001 team among the upper reaches of the list. Second, because the companion list of the largest cuts of the post-1988 era now goes to 21 as well; I inadvertently omitted the number-three team, the 1996 Blue Jays, by somehow deleting the CAP score calculation of a small handful of teams within my spreadsheet, a hazard of plonking around for too many hours. In the interest of completeness, here they are in context:

Rank

Year

Team

Total payroll

Decrease (%)

Decrease ($)

CAP

W-L

WPCT

dWPCT

1

2006

Marlins

$15.0

-75.2%

-$45.4

-3.36

78-84

.481

-.031

2

2004

Rangers

$55.1

-46.8%

-$48.4

-2.46

89-73

.549

.111

3

1996

Blue Jays

$28.5

-42.8%

-$21.3

-2.38

74-88

.457

.068

4

1998

Reds

$22.0

-52.5%

-$24.3

-2.35

77-85

.475

.006

5

1996

Athletics

$19.4

-46.0%

-$16.6

-2.14

78-84

.481

.016

6

2011

Royals

$36.1

-49.4%

-$35.3

-2.12

71-91

.438

.024

7

1997

Pirates

$9.1

-57.3%

-$12.2

-2.07

79-83

.488

.037

8

1992

Indians

$8.2

-54.9%

-$10.0

-2.07

76-86

.469

.117

9

2009

Padres

$43.7

-40.6%

-$29.9

-2.06

75-87

.463

.074

10

2003

Indians

$48.6

-38.4%

-$30.3

-2.00

68-94

.420

-.037

11

2007

Nationals

$37.3

-40.9%

-$25.8

-1.97

73-89

.451

.013

12

2002

Devil Rays

$34.4

-39.7%

-$22.6

-1.95

55-106

.342

-.041

13

2008

Athletics

$48.0

-39.6%

-$31.4

-1.85

75-86

.466

-.003

14

2011

Rays

$41.1

-42.9%

-$30.9

-1.85

91-71

.562

-.031

15

1996

Tigers

$21.9

-38.8%

-$13.9

-1.80

53-109

.327

-.090

16

1995

Royals

$27.6

-31.8%

-$12.9

-1.71

70-74

.486

-.071

17

2003

Blue Jays

$51.3

-33.3%

-$25.6

-1.71

86-76

.531

.050

18

1991

Astros

$11.5

-38.7%

-$7.3

-1.64

65-97

.401

-.062

19

1998

White Sox

$36.8

-32.3%

-$17.5

-1.59

80-82

.494

-.003

20

1994

Padres

$13.5

-44.9%

-$11.0

-1.57

47-70

.402

.025

21

2005

Rockies

$48.2

-26.4%

-$17.3

-1.57

67-95

.414

-.006

Back to the list of the largest spike: First, it’s worth noting that the CAP scores are of considerably larger magnitude. That’s because the vast majority of teams, 459 out of 626, increased their Opening Day payrolls from year to year as part of the larger trend, and they were bounded on one side by 25 times the minimum salary.

I admit I'm surprised that so many of those teams are so old, but as noted last time around, the dollar amounts by which those older teams increased payroll are so small by today's standards that it didn't take much to do so by a significant percentage. The 1989 Brewers, who preceded the leader of this particular pack, had $3 million players (Teddy Higuera, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount) making a combined $4.075 million, while the 1990 team jumped to five such players (that trio plus Dan Plesac and Dave Parker) making $10.6 million, accounting for two-thirds of the team's overall increase. Note that those Brewers—Bud Selig's team—led the way in spending as the average payroll increased by a whopping 29.4 percent over the previous year. It’s a rather amusing irony given what was to follow just a short time later, when Selig was part of the small-market junta that ousted commissioner Fay Vincent and went to war with the players’ union. Four other teams from that same year made the top 20, as did three from the following year, which featured a period record 38.7 percent jump in Opening Day payrolls. No wonder the owners needed to be saved from themselves.

While I'd like to embark on a similar history lesson as I did last time, providing capsule summaries of the top teams' biggest gains, that will have to wait for another day due to my failure to master time travel to a point where such research could still happen in time to make this deadline. Instead, I'll eschew another 4,000-word monster and stick to summarizing the data. For starters, the teams with the 21 largest payroll increases by this methodology combined for a .492 winning percentage, with three of them making the postseason: The 1999 Diamondbacks ramped up their payroll in just their second year of existence and won 100 games, while the 1992 Blue Jays won 96 games and a World Series after making the playoffs the year before, and the 2011 Rangers won 96 en route to their second straight pennant. Eight of the 21 teams played .500 ball or better.

One year later, those teams (reduced to 20 in the sample, because we lack a crystal ball for the 2012 Rangers) improved just barely, via a .495 winning percentage. Four of them made the playoffs: the 1992 A's, the 1993 Blue Jays (who repeated as world champions), the 1995 Rockies (who won the NL wild card), and the 1996 Padres. Ten of the teams achieved winning records, while two others landed right at .500.

Two years after their payroll spikes, those teams fell off, producing just a .478 winning percentage, with the World Series-winning 2001 Diamondbacks the only one even to make the playoffs. While nine of the 20 teams played at least .500 ball, the 2002 Tigers and Devil Rays both slumped to 55-106 records (.342), weighing down the entire class; the latter did so via the era's 12th-largest payroll cut.

Three years later, those teams improved a bit, to a .483 winning percentage. Two of them, the 1998 Padres and 2002 Diamondbacks, made the playoffs, with the Pads going on to win the NL pennant. A third, the 1994 Reds, were clinging to a half-game division lead when the strike hit. Nine teams played .500 or better ball, but the 2003 Tigers' near-record futility (43-119, .265) dragged the overall winning percentage down 13 points all by themselves.

Summarizing the above and their payroll cut counterparts in a neat little table:

21 Largest Payroll Cuts (CAP < -1.56)

Year

WPCT

dW

Playoff

.500

0

.458

1.3

1

3

1

.465

1.2

0

3

2

.496

5.1

3

9

3

.485

-1.8

1

5

21 Largest Payroll Increases (CAP > 2.56)

Year

WPCT

dW

Playoff

.500

0

.492

-0.3

3

8

1

.495

0.6

4

12

2

.478

-2.8

1

9

3

.483

0.9

3

9

Not surprisingly, the group of teams that made the biggest cuts was significantly worse than the ones who made the biggest gains, both in the year in question and the year afterward, by margins of 5.5 and 4.9 wins per team-season, respectively. But two years after the fact, the belt-tighteners surpassed the big spenders by 2.9 wins per team-season, suggesting some method to the madness. Three years after the fact, the two groups were virtually equal. None of the groups reached .500 over the four-season span, which suggests that extreme fluctuations in payroll in either direction are generally not the soundest strategy for building a winning ballclub. I suspect there are even more interesting nuggets waiting to be revealed from within the data, but those, along with the historical summaries of the teams with the biggest increases, will have to wait for another day.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  Collusion,  Baseball Salaries

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Sobsequy: When You Lea... (02/08)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (02/06)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (02/10)
Next Article >>
The BP Broadside: Pard... (02/08)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The Other Guys, Part Two:...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of September 12-1...
The Week in Quotes: September 8-14
In A Pickle: How To Lose Lots of One-Run Gam...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Monday, September 1...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: September 15, 2014
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: September 15, 2014

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Reintroducing PECOTA: The Weighting is the H...
The BP Broadside: Pardon Me, Sir, But Have Y...
Premium Article Sobsequy: When You Leave Durham, You Don't C...
Premium Article Bates' Dugout Motel: Who's Your Baseball Boy...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Ruminations on My LABR Invitat...
The BP First Take: Wednesday, February 8

MORE BY JAY JAFFE
2012-02-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Inspecting the Spect...
2012-02-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Vortices of Suck...
2012-02-10 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Vortices of Suck...
2012-02-08 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Rising Payrolls of t...
2012-02-06 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Beware of Falling Pa...
2012-02-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Replacement-Leve...
2012-02-01 - BP Unfiltered: Jaffe Versus Bowa
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS HIT AND RUN
2012-02-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Inspecting the Spect...
2012-02-13 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Vortices of Suck...
2012-02-10 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Vortices of Suck...
2012-02-08 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Rising Payrolls of t...
2012-02-06 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Beware of Falling Pa...
2012-02-01 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Replacement-Leve...
2012-01-30 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Replacement-Leve...
More...