Monday, October 03, 2005

Parity scorecard

Following up on something Grieve said a few days ago...remember when we were told this was the year parity returned to baseball? That neither the Sox nor the Yanks were making it to the playoffs, as the Orioles would take the East and a low-payroll team like the A's or Indians would win the Wild Card? Yeah, those predictions were spot-on. Just like they were last year. The Yanks, Red Sox, Los Anaheim, and Other Sox rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in salary in the AL (4th was the Mariners, somehow). Put another way:
  • Yankees: highest-paid team in baseball (and hence in the AL East)
  • Red Sox: second highest-paid team in baseball (and hence in the AL East)
  • Angels: highest-paid team in AL West
  • Hose: highest-paid team inthe AL Central
Talk about parity! Highest salary means you get in; it was the same last year, except the Twins had a slightly lower payroll than the Hose. And the year before that, except the A's beat the Angels. Only one lower-salaried team even came close this year, the Indians; and this was at least in part because they benefitted from the best strength of schedule in the entire league.

The NL is not as clear-cut. But this is due to two horribly mismanaged, overpaid teams (Mets and Phillies...who almost made it) and of course the Worst Division in Baseball History. The only playoff spot not affected by those two factors was the NL Central -- which was also won by the highest-salaried team in the division.

Yet all this year - just like last year - we had the sports media and Bud Selig going on about parity finally arriving to baseball. Next year, when they do the same, don't believe them.


  1. All true, but I think the media overstated with regards to time. This is changing; small payroll teams like the Indians, A's, Brewers, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays are poised to make big improvements, while at the same time the gap between best and worst teams closed a good bit this season. It really is changing, I think, and next year at this time the league will be a very interesting place.

  2. I also think things are tightening up a bit. Only 2 teams this year won more than 95 games. Last year there were 4. Or choose 90 games - last year 10, this year 7. I'm too lazy to do a standard deviation calc, but things are getting closer.

    Exact same for 90 losses - last year 10 teams. This year 7. Hell the freakin Milwaukee Brewers were .500 this year.

    Last year the cumulative margin of the first to last pace teams was 205 games versus 154 games this year.

  3. Let the discussion commence over the definition of parity.

  4. Sure, but then looking at bigger trends...

    YEAR 90+ wins 90+ losses
    2005 7 7
    2004 10 10
    2003 8 9
    2002 11 8
    2001 7 8
    2000 8 8

    I see no trend, at all.

  5. Guilty of not thoroughly doing my homework.

    I wish I had the time and resources to do a standard deviation analysis from 81 wins.

    At the risk of sounding like Joe Morgan, don't you see a trend of the weaker teams getting better?

    Plus with the revenue sharing and smarter management, you are seeing more teams tie up excellent young talent to longish term deals (Santana, Sheets, et al). Look at the dearth of FAs this coming winter.

  6. Yeah, I agree with you both -- while I see no real numbers to back this up, it sure does feel like small payroll teams have more of a shot than they did just a couple years ago.

    What I'm wondering is: is that enough? Going to your question of "what is parity?"...have we reached parity if Cleveland and Toronto and Milwaukee have a shot every year, even if they never make it to the playoffs, and the Yanks and Red Sox and Cardinals make it every single year?

    I dunno. It's an improvement I guess. But look at Atlanta: they've fallen short of the Big Win so many times that they can't even sell out their playoff games. I can imagine, in 2015, a Toronto fan deciding it's not worth it -- "Sure they'll win 93 games this year, but they still won't make the playoffs. So what's the point?"

  7. I think the "what is parity" question does deserve a little more examination. Even the NFL would fail by the standard that every team thinks they can win every year. Noone is seriously thinking that SF or HOU will be a threat in the NFL this year - but the teams have hope for the future with young QBs, new coaches, etc.

    I think the proper definition may have something to do with allowing a team to have (at least) a chance for a certain time. CLE built to this year and likely have a shot at contending again. MILW got to .500 and with Sheets healthy for all of 06 and the emergence of Fielder and others, they may well contend for a WC spot.

    But yeah, I also agree that the rich teams will almost always have a built in advantage in that they can use their money to create flexibility and backup plans.

  8. Earl, the problem here is that the sample size for a real study is still too small. The argument for parity would be that the luxury tax and revenue sharing are contributing to smaller market teams being able to hold onto talent, and while there is circumstantial evidence (Johan Santana, Ben Sheets) there's nothing we can definitively point to. We might also just be at a tipping point where a lot of talented younger players are entering the league and skewing win data. So, we'll just have to wait and see. If anything, whatever effects (negligible or otherwise) stronger steroids enforcement has had might be further responsible, hastening decline for older more established players on high payroll teams.

  9. wow, very good point about the steroids...

    Yeah, we'll see. Anyway, I think we can agree: parity's not here. Maybe it's on it's way -- no way to tell...

  10. Ok, but let's look at "parity". Are we talking about contenders or teams that get in to the playoffs?

    Prior to the recent Yankees run (is ending 5 years ago recent?) the last "dynasty" could have been the Toronto Blue Jays 92-93, and before that the A's in the 70s with 3 consecutive...

    Now let's look at the NFL...

    Three of the past 4 years...The Patriots. Not much parity there (and there have been many changes in the other competition around that league...still the same winner of the championship). In the 90s the Cowboys won a bunch, in the 80s it was the 49ers, in the 70s it was Pittsburgh.

    The NBA (let's take a long look here): 91-93- Bulls; 94-95 Rockets; 96-98 Bulls; 99 Spurs (oops no repeat here...but wait they also won in 03 and 05), 00-03 Lakers...Throw in a Pistons win in 04(and a return to defend in 05)...No parity there...

    I would say that there is parity in baseball.

  11. Ok, but let's look at "parity". Are we talking about contenders or teams that get in to the playoffs?

    Either one is fine with me. What we shouldn't do is just look at the champions (which is what you did), since the playoffs are a crapshoot. We need to look at teams that make the playoffs.

    From 2001-2005, there have been 40 spots in the baseball playoffs. If there was parity, on average each team should've been there at least once. It's not even close -- only 16 out of 30 teams made the playoffs in that time, with more than half of those (9) making it multiple times. Fourteen teams -- almost half of baseball -- have never made it. Sorry, but that's not parity.

    Switching over to the's easier to make the playoffs, since there are 12 spots; so let's eliminate the wild cards, so there are "only" 8 teams going to the playoffs each year. Note that this actually makes it harder to make the playoffs than in baseball, since there are 32 NFL teams. In the last 4 years (2001-04) this leaves 32 spots. Those spots were filled by 19 teams, 14 of which made it exactly once.

    19 teams to fill 32 spots is MUCH better than 16 teams to fill 40 spots. Hence, much more parity in the NFL than in the MLB.

    [Incidentally, if we don't eliminate the MLB Wild Cards, 24 out of 32 teams made it in a span of 4 years.]

  12. P.S. plus my Bengals are 4-0, already doubling the number of wins they got in the entire 2002 season. Parity, baby! Gooooooo Bengals!

  13. So, do you think people would be screaming about parity in baseball if the Yankees hadn't gone on that run? I think that if a different team is basically the best team each year then that is parity.

    If you look at the turnover of champs baseball is by far the best.

    I think the problem in baseball is that people look at KC and say, "How can they possibly compete?" Well, they could sell the team to someone who gives a crap about winning and keeping some of that talent around and will spend money to keep said talent. And Texas and Baltimore can look in to getting better pitching, and Seattle can not sign guys like Beltre and Sexson and focus on getting a more well-rounded team. The Mets spend a ton and they suck...It's not all about the money.

    There are a lot of bad owners in baseball. Maybe that is part of the problem.

    How is it parity if when the playoffs start that you already know who is going to be the champ regardless of who makes the playoffs?

    Except for the first Pats win, the other two were basically no brainers...Some of us rooted for their team (Steelers) but knew somewhere it was for no good. Remember my rant at X's apartment during the game in which Stewart threw all those dumb picks?

    Hell, look at basketball. I don't even watch it and I can tell you that the Spurs more than likely will repeat this year. I can tell you the Knicks will suck. And people knew the Lakers were going to be unbeatable (and the Bulls), etc...Yet, basketball's ratings were through the roof.

    Baseball playoffs are beginning right now and I can't tell you who is going to be in the ALCS and NLCS? (Except the Red Sox...).

  14. So, do you think people would be screaming about parity in baseball if the Yankees hadn't gone on that run?

    I can't speak for others, but I certainly don't think the Yankees' run has anything to do with it. Look, I just provided playoff numbers from 2001-2005, so it's obvious I'm not talking about the earlier Yankees dynasty.

    I think you're way off about the NFL when you say people "already know who is going to be the champ regardless of who makes the playoffs". You really think the Eagles had no chance against the Patriots? (They lost by 3.) And how many times have we heard "this is the year for Peyton Manning's colts?" The last five seasons maybe?

    Put another way -- who's going to win the Superbowl this year? Now, going back to March of 2005, ask anyone who knows anything about baseball who would win the World Series, and there are only four answers you'd get: Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, or Cardinals.

  15. Anyway, I agree that the problem is not just the rich team; the miserly owners of the crapass teams deserve a lot of the blame as well. But so long as they can get away with it, it's a structural problem in baseball that needs to be fixed.

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