Moneyball: Orioles Claim Playoffs with Best Bang Per Buck

Moneyball: Orioles Claim Playoffs with Best Bang Per Buck

The Baltimore Orioles are the best deal in baseball, clinching the playoffs Tuesday despite $107 million in salaries that projected an 81-81 season.

They are on pace to win 17 more than their salaries justify, the 25th-best deal since 1998. This season’s Red Sox (-16 wins, 476th “best deal”) and Texas Rangers (-22 wins, 504th of 510 seasons) are among the worst deals of all time.

In raw terms, teams win an average of one game for every $1.4 million dollars spent. However, there is obviously a huge law of diminishing returns in baseball, in which there is no salary cap. In 2005, the Yankees spent $205 million in salary which would equate to $326 million dollars when you factor that salaries are now 58% higher than in 2005. Obviously, you cannot just divide their salary by $1.4 million and conclude they should have won 229 games in an 162 game schedule. The actual formula that projects a team’s wins is:

Projected Wins = 54.5 + (3 x (Squareroot of ((Salary / Average Salary) * 100)))

The following chart shows the best 25 deals and the worst 10 deals since 1998, with all 2014 teams and where they rank.

Billy Beane has put together five of the top 12 deals including the unbelievable record of more than 100 wins twice in seasons in which Oakland’s salaries were below $40 million, which would translate to below $70 million even if adjusted for 2014 averages. These were the teams that inspired the Moneyball book and movie. 

The A’s project to win 13 more games than their salaries justify this year–third best behind the Orioles and Angels. However, it has become much more difficult for a team to exceed projections by the margins Beane achieved now that most of his statistical valuations of players are used by all teams.

Thanks to the Steve the Ump website for putting together the salary lists here, which I then adjusted to 2014 equivalents for this table.

Best deals Year Team Wins Salary (2014 equiv) projW Above $ proj
1 2001 Seattle Mariners 116 135,122,916 83.7 32.3
2 2001 Oakland Athletics 102 60,389,374 74.1 27.9
3 2002 Oakland Athletics 103 67,734,774 75.2 27.8
4 1998 New York Yankees 114 184,031,684 88.6 25.4
5 2008 Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays 97 56,340,352 73.4 23.6
6 2004 St. Louis Cardinals 105 127,033,628 82.9 22.1
7 2013 Oakland Athletics 96 67,618,570 75.2 20.8
8 2000 Chicago White Sox 95 64,393,521 74.7 20.3
9 2012 Oakland Athletics 94 65,037,986 74.8 19.2
10 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks 94 66,410,881 75.0 19.0
11 2012 Washington Nationals 98 95,533,685 79.1 18.9
12 2003 Oakland Athletics 96 81,468,819 77.2 18.8
13 2002 Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels 99 105,361,137 80.3 18.7
14 2002 Minnesota Twins 94 68,665,542 75.3 18.7
15 1998 Atlanta Braves 106 172,945,287 87.6 18.4
16 2011 Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays 91 51,915,755 72.6 18.4
17 1998 Houston Astros 102 135,378,706 83.8 18.2
18 2007 Cleveland Indians 96 85,928,887 77.8 18.2
19 2010 San Diego Padres 90 47,812,644 71.9 18.1
20 2005 Cleveland Indians 93 66,201,182 75.0 18.0
21 2012 Cincinnati Reds 97 96,552,578 79.2 17.8
22 2010 Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays 96 90,976,587 78.5 17.5
23 2013 Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays 92 64,531,901 74.7 17.3
24 2006 Minnesota Twins 96 94,110,399 78.9 17.1
25 2014 Baltimore Orioles 98 107,406,623 80.6 17.1
34 2014 Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels 102 155,692,000 85.9 15.6
60 2014 Oakland Athletics 90 83,401,400 77.5 12.8
81 2014 Kansas City Royals 89 92,034,345 78.6 10.5
84 2014 Washington Nationals 94 134,704,437 83.7 10.3
91 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates 86 78,111,667 76.7 9.7
116 2014 Seattle Mariners 87 92,081,943 78.6 8.3
122 2014 St. Louis Cardinals 89 111,020,360 81.0 8.0
136 2014 Florida/Miami Marlins 79 47,565,400 71.9 7.0
154 2014 Cleveland Indians 83 82,534,800 77.4 5.8
173 2014 Milwaukee Brewers 85 103,844,806 80.1 4.6
193 2014 Detroit Tigers 90 162,228,527 86.5 3.6
199 2014 San Francisco Giants 89 154,185,878 85.7 3.3
217 2014 Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays 79 77,062,891 76.6 2.3
255 2014 Houston Astros 72 44,544,174 71.3 0.6
273 2014 Toronto Blue Jays 83 132,628,700 83.5 (0.3)
276 2014 New York Mets 78 89,051,758 78.2 (0.4)
278 2014 Atlanta Braves 80 110,897,341 81.0 (0.5)
282 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers 92 235,295,219 93.1 (0.8)
319 2014 San Diego Padres 75 90,094,196 78.4 (3.4)
350 2014 Chicago White Sox 73 91,159,254 78.5 (5.1)
357 2014 Cincinnati Reds 76 112,390,772 81.2 (5.5)
370 2014 Chicago Cubs 72 89,007,857 78.2 (6.4)
395 2014 New York Yankees 82 203,812,506 90.4 (8.3)
405 2014 Minnesota Twins 69 85,776,500 77.8 (9.1)
455 2014 Philadelphia Phillies 75 180,052,723 88.3 (13.7)
466 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks 67 112,688,666 81.2 (14.7)
467 2014 Colorado Rockies 64 95,832,071 79.1 (14.8)
476 2014 Boston Red Sox 71 162,817,411 86.6 (15.8)
501 2012 Boston Red Sox 69 203,417,018 90.4 (21.4)
502 2010 Seattle Mariners 61 124,437,450 82.6 (21.6)
503 2002 Milwaukee Brewers 56 85,843,165 77.8 (21.8)
504 2014 Texas Rangers 62 136,036,172 83.8 (21.9)
505 2011 Houston Astros 56 87,525,456 78.0 (22.0)
506 2003 New York Mets 66 189,933,683 89.2 (23.2)
507 2002 Detroit Tigers 55 93,968,944 78.9 (23.9)
508 2008 Seattle Mariners 61 151,284,361 85.4 (24.4)
509 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 51 117,915,895 81.8 (30.8)
510 2003 Detroit Tigers 43 79,697,422 77.0 (34.0)

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