“While money has historically bought success in baseball, recent trends linking payrolls to winning percentages have weakened,” said Ablin. “This reflects varying skill in team management; it’s certainly easy to win games with a massive payroll, but it does not guarantee success.”
Following the buzz of baseball bestseller and just-released film Moneyball, Ablin’s big-league winners and losers are broken down in the context of costs (payroll) and benefits (wins).
Ablin’s top winners and losers of the 2011 season in the American and National League are as follows:
American League Winner
Texas Rangers – The Rangers closed the year with a .593 winning percentage in a highly-competitive league. The team was able to attain the second highest winning percentage and wrap up their division for under $100 million. The team’s highly paid players delivered.
American League Loser
Minnesota Twins – The Twins posted the worst record in the league and came within one game of losing 100 games for the season. Remarkably, the Twins posted a $112 million payroll. The team was plagued with health issues and a weak bullpen. Given their recent successes, including six division titles in the last decade, we’re willing to cut management a little slack.
National League Winner
Arizona Diamondbacks – While the Diamondbacks are struggling against the star-studded Brewers, the team put together 94 wins during the regular season with a scant $53 million payroll. The D-Backs clinched their first NL West title in four years; a remarkable turnaround after a year of losing 97 games.
National League Loser
Houston Astros – With a .346 winning percentage, or should we say a .654 losing percentage, the Astros dropped 106 games this season. The team finished 40 games behind the division-winner Brewers. To be fair, the team is in the process of being sold, although prospective buyer Jim Crane may want to reconsider his purchase price. The only good news here is that the Astros’ poor showing deflects attention away from the lackluster Cubs.