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2011 Happy Points Update #1

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Ok, it's the All-Star break and that means that we get to endure the Bud Selig State Of Middle Earth, or some such other fantasy land far removed from reality. There in Bud's chat this week was more of the total fabrication concerning the relative parity and fair opportunity for all teams in Major League Baseball:

(Speaking in the context of a salary cap)

"...The fact that you're seeing the competitive balance today that you're seeing, think about it. Pittsburgh has made a remarkable comeback. The Cleveland Indians have made a remarkable comeback. Every division has races. The economic system has changed. It is completely restructured. It's working."

(italics and bold are mine)

So it's worthy of putting this back out there this week. No more bed-time stories. And, even more fun, we have a new set of numbers - 2011 current season - to play with and to look forward with, instead of looking backwards.

Anybody not familiar with the notion of "Happy Points", or "The Selig Line", would be best served to link back to the post here, where I published a bunch of interesting look-see results of the payroll data of MLB. After combining 23 seasons worth of results, I took that data and did a cross check versus the team results in the playoffs.

This is NOT any prediction of the 2011 playoff results. It is merely a forecast of the probabilities based on the past couple of decades.

(I am doing this now, before things get tangled up after the trade deadline. I just want to have a placeholder here to compare against what the payroll numbers can potentially look like AFTER all the player movement occurs in a few weeks.)

We begin with the 2011 payroll numbers (again, using the same USA Today source for sake of consistency).

Team Total payroll
New York Yankees $202,689,028
Philadelphia Phillies $172,976,379
Boston Red Sox $161,762,475
Los Angeles Angels $138,543,166
Chicago White Sox $127,789,000
Chicago Cubs $125,047,329
New York Mets $118,847,309
San Francisco Giants $118,198,333
Minnesota Twins $112,737,000
Detroit Tigers $105,700,231
St. Louis Cardinals $105,433,572
Los Angeles Dodgers $104,188,999
Texas Rangers $92,299,264
Colorado Rockies $88,148,071

No surprise, what with the Yankees way out ahead of the rest of baseball. But that is not what we are going for here. The first important idea is that this list comprises the set of teams at, or above, the Selig Line ONLY. The Selig Line (for those unwilling to link to the original post) is position 14 on the overall list of payroll rankings. Those teams at, or above, the Selig Line are those teams which have gathered the vast majority of playoff success in the past 23 years and have realized a measurable return for their investment. And we are NOT talking teams by name, but ANY team which occupies one of those important payroll slots.

Those teams occupying their respective slots on this list which do NOT realize the historic return for that slot are those teams realizing inefficiencies in their payroll investment. (Conversely, of course, any team NOT on that list which enjoys any amount of playoff success this year is realizing payroll efficiencies compared to historical norms.) But from that list above we should expect the most amount of playoff participation this coming offseason.

And what ARE those historic returns for each of the slots above? Again, for those unwilling to read the original post, each slot has gathered an average of about 5% more playoff success over history (that which is measurable) than the slot immediately below. Here is the graph from the original post, greatest playoff success to the left:


(The idea of the Selig Line is that teams slotted in payroll ranking 15th and below do NOT realize that 5% delta from their immediate superior. The returns diminish after that 14th spot. So if you want to get into a world where there is more corrolation between your relative spend and historical success, you have to get above The Selig Line.)

To put this information into local context, last year we were 8th on the payroll list and missed the playoffs completely. Totally inefficient for that season. This year we are slot #4 (not JUST because of the Wells contract, folks) where, historically, teams have had significant playoff success. The pressure is on...

So here is the ask: while Uncle Bud waves his hands over here in an attempt to get us paying attention to the outliers and exceptions, keep your eye on the 800 pound gorilla on the table. Look at the division leaders and compare against the 2011 table. Money is far more representative of baseball divisional leadership than those teams which represent Selig's sense of equilibrium. Later in the season some of these leaders will absorb even more payroll as they chase the final prize. We will check back again after the trade deadline. And then, let's all follow along and count the 2011 MLB Playoff Happy Points together, comparing them against their historical norms. The very best thing that can happen would be Uncle Bud congratulating the plucky little Angels on a WS victory, while simultaneously pointing to us as evidence of economic/competitve parity (as he did with the 2010 Giants).

See you on this subject later in the season...