Would it surprise you if I told you that the New York Yankees are not the biggest spending team in Major League Baseball? Of course it would because it’s ridiculous to claim otherwise. We all know the big, bad Yankees do their damnedest each season to buy a championship with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies hot on their heels in annual player salary spending. However, so much attention is attributed to market size — small market teams this and large market teams that — that maybe we should redefine how spending is quantified in baseball.
Think about it for a second, intelligent people don’t analyze a business based only on revenue, expenses, and profit. Those who know what’s what will use other factors such as market share, the success of competitors, debts, projections, and the multitude of financial ratios that can be generated from balance sheets and cash flow reports. So, why wouldn’t we do the same for baseball teams? Those revenue and payroll numbers are nice for kicking off the conversation because they allow for such a quick and direct comparison between any of the 30 teams. It’s easy to fabricate a position that X team wants to win more than Y team because X team spends Z more than Y team…right?
But, maybe we should dig a little deeper to find out who effectively spends the most in trying to put the best players on the field. Baseball is the purveyor of Sabermetrics…which I understand to be a system that allows a fan to compile some standard player statistics, perform some calculus on said statistics to create a new metric, and then write no less than 3,200 words justifying the new metric’s merits.
So, I did that. And, by the way, my new metric is called Payroll Per Capita, or PRPC for you acronym-loving fools.
Below, you’ll find the payroll for each MLB team as of the first day of the 2011 season. This data is largely here for two reasons:
1) I adore my readers and want them to learn something when they absorb my drivel. Therefore, for your future reference, I have arranged the MLB payroll data greatest to least in three formats: A) for all of MLB, B) for each league, and C) for each division. You will now be armed with real knowledge on how each team spends money on players.
2) I didn’t originally know what I was going to do with all of this payroll data, so I arranged it in the formats mentioned above and decided that if I include these tables within the post, it will justify all of the time I spent putting them together.
MLB Overall Payroll Data:
American League and National League Payroll Data:
American League Divisions Payroll Data:
National League Divisions Payroll Data:
Now that you’re locked and loaded with the basic payroll knowledge, let’s discuss Payroll Per Capita. Right or wrong, many writers, analysts, and armchair general managers discuss the market size a team resides in as if it’s a pivotal factor in judging that team’s competitiveness. The way I see it, the market size is a solid estimator for the size of a team’s fanbase. And, payroll is a reasonable assessor of a team’s desire to win. So, the larger the market size, the more fans and the larger the payroll, the greater desire to win. Having qualified these market size and payroll quantities, I am now able to justify that it’s possible to measure the monetary devotion of a team to the will of its fans.
What defines a baseball team’s market size? It depends on who you ask. I consulted various sources and held discussions with esteemed TVF writer Hawkeye to ensure we used reasonable and consistent data. Ultimately, we came to a consensus definition and Hawkeye compiled the market size information for each MLB team. In the spirit of full dislosure, I’ll let him describe market size in his words:
OK. For most of the data, I used Combined Statistical Areas. Now, the problem is, some cities (Miami, Phoenix, Tampa, San Diego, and Toronto) do not fall under a CSA, so for the American cities I used Primary Census Statistical Areas, and for Toronto, I used the Metropolitan Areas data. It looks like there is a difference between the PCSAs and the CSAs, but not enough to really make a difference.
Now, we’re able to determine how much a MLB team spends on baseball players per person in its market…i.e. Payroll Per Capita. For teams that share a particular market, the market was simply divided into equal shares for each team. This could also have been done by proportioning the market according to the fanbase for each team (the number of Nationals fans vs. Orioles fans, the number of Yankees fans vs. Mets fans, etc.), but that data is unavailable. The same information is presented in both MLB PRPC tables below, but they are each sorted differently to show how starkly a team’s PRPC differs from its payroll.
MLB PRPC – Sorted by Payroll:
MLB PRPC – Sorted by PRPC:
Now you get why I said the Brewers spend more than any other team in baseball. In fact, the mighty, money-burning Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox are 15, 10, and 8 in Payroll Per Capita rankings. In 2011, the Brewers are spending 33% more money on players per person in their market than the #2 PRPC team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Obviously, the Brewers lead all of MLB in PRPC — a.k.a. FLQ (the Fan Love Quotient) — and the New York Mets and Florida Marlins bring up the rear.
A special thanks goes out to Hawkeye for doing the market size legwork. The complete list of payrolls, market sizes, and PRPC calculations is below.
MLB Payroll and PRPC Calculations (click to enlarge):