Q: Which MLB team pays the most? A: The Milwaukee Brewers

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):

37 thoughts on “Q: Which MLB team pays the most? A: The Milwaukee Brewers

  1. great piece miz. Still it doesn’t tell the whole story as player development and scouting wouldn’t be included

  2. 1. jesus this is a lot of work and also awesome

    2. i’m not sure how much it matters

  3. What’s your conclusion/argument using the data? Should teams have a certain PRPC to be profitable/winners? Are teams irresponsible/poorly run if they have a certain PRPC? What’s your point?

  4. What’s your conclusion/argument using the data? Should teams have a certain PRPC to be profitable/winners? Are teams irresponsible/poorly run if they have a certain PRPC? What’s your point?

    it’s an analysis of data, not proof of a hypothesis. I think the point is that using a team’s payroll to compare any number of teams willingness to spend money may be leaving out important information.

    this is the way I kinda think about it, the market size a team resides in roughly represents its fanbase and its ability to generate revenue. teams like the Brewers and Cardinals are taking a much larger risk to win than teams like the Yankees, Angels, or Rangers.

  5. Man, you put in a lot of work for someone who doesn’t give a shit about beisbol.

    luckily, it’s about money and perception, not about baseball.

  6. Yankees do their damnedest each season to buy a championship with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies hot on their heels

    I agree with Miz.

  7. This post is a tour de force of awesomeness. Well done miz. Also fuck the Marlins, this just proved they’re the stingiest team in baseball and should be contracted.

  8. Great post. Also, I pray to my spaghetti monster every day that the Seligs no longer own my favorite baseball team.

  9. The big problem is determining how many fans are in the area. NY is a baseball town and there are lots of Yankee’s fans in surrounding areas that will travel to games and watch games on TV. Splitting the fans between White Sox and Cubs, Yanks and Mets or Orioles and Nats really doesn’t work. Some places are more baseball towns (St. Louis) than others (Florida).

    But your overall point is valid. A $200M payroll for the Yankees is much less of a financial burden than the $85M payroll for the Brewers.

    So if there is any conclusion to be reached, it is that there is a huge disadvantage for small market teams vs. big market teams.

  10. Shouldn’t the payroll per capita numbers be adjusted for cities with 2 teams?

  11. The big problem is determining how many fans are in the area. NY is a baseball town and there are lots of Yankee’s fans in surrounding areas that will travel to games and watch games on TV. Splitting the fans between White Sox and Cubs, Yanks and Mets or Orioles and Nats really doesn’t work. Some places are more baseball towns (St. Louis) than others (Florida).

    Dan – I probably could have made this more clear, but your point is what I was going for when I said this:

    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.

    in reality, there are probably way more Yankees fans than Mets fans, so that would actually lower the Yankees’ PRPC and raise the Mets’. the same situation would probably be true for the Orioles and Nats and Dodgers and Angels.

  12. Shouldn’t the payroll per capita numbers be adjusted for cities with 2 teams?

    it is, but I didn’t have any way to accurately proportion the market for each team based on the proportion of fans for each team within the market, so I just divided it in half. that’s the crux of the discussion in comments #12 and #14.

  13. Great post. Also, I pray to my spaghetti monster every day that the Seligs no longer own my favorite baseball team.

    They don’t

  14. Huh? Read my comment again…

    Obviously I’m confused. Straighten me out, if you don’t mind

  15. I fourth or fifth the wow. Is there a point where it becomes foolish for teams to up their PRPC (for example it seems the Yankees, should they ever manage to place in the top five would be spending $400,000,000 a year) and teams should basically be trying to win 95 games a season. Also I’m wondering if market and accessible fanbase are really the same thing, though I’m not sure how you could do what you did any better than this.

    Since the Brewers and Cardinals are 1-2 I sorta think this has less to do with market and more to do with fanbase, ie these teams manage to draw far more than their marketes indicate they should, and they are thus able to spend more than that amount.

  16. that’s the crux of the discussion in comments #12 and #14.

    Link?

    /I see that now.

  17. Of course spending to manage a high PRPC would presumably help excite/inflate the fanbase…

  18. I’d like to be the first to suggest that concessions revenue in well known fatty state Wisconsin MUST be responsible for this. I demand a thorough investigation, Miz.

    This was pretty fun, seriously.

    The Mets suck at everything.

  19. Obviously I’m confused. Straighten me out, if you don’t mind

    I’m thankful that the Seligs no longer own the Brewers. You seemed to imply that I thought the Seligs still DID own the Brewers.

  20. I’m thankful that the Seligs no longer own the Brewers. You seemed to imply that I thought the Seligs still DID own the Brewers.

    Indeed I thought that way from reading your quote. no matter, as they do not, and the Brewers are doing well.

  21. This is all kinds of awesome. I’d also like to take time to point out that the highest ranked teams in terms of PRPC aren’t locks to make the postseason, furthering my contention that payroll isn’t directly correlative to wins.

  22. lefty, i’m missing something. even a casual fan like me knows that high payroll doesn;t guarantee success. i do see the differencce between making the postseason and winning a WS. still, the goal when you spend a lot is a title not merely a cool division champ shirt

  23. Man, Miz really raises the standards of our posts ’round these parts.

    I can only dream to reach that high of a level of writing….

  24. have at it, jp. do you think you would/could do what he did here?

    i have no interest in doing this kind of post. know why? i’m not smart enough, don;t care enough, do not have the skills to make squares, nor the time to do that much work for free

    that typed, kudos on this miz. it has the feel of a labor of love and that’s the best

  25. have no interest in doing this kind of post. know why? i’m not smart enough, don;t care enough, do not have the skills to make squares, nor the time to do that much work for free

    Free, he didn’t get a cut of those sponsored posts? Must have been because the US women lost.

  26. oh, cbh, if some writer here get paid i didn;t know. still, pay or labor of love, it’s unique to miz, and every writer here has a style or specific interest. i just was responding to jp’s comment, hoping he wasn;t seriously intimidated or downplaying his own contributions

  27. yo, vez…

    i’m just putting tongue-in-cheek on what miz does. :)

    (just putting in my own little brand of self-deprecation)

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