by Gerry Leb
As far as Tribe fans are concerned, today’s the day. The playoffs begin with our division series against the (be polite, Gerry!) uh, despised New York Yankees. The Yankees have the second highest payroll in baseball. Everyone pays them careful attention, and their young power hitter, Judge, is touted to the skies. Perhaps, while we are hating on the pin-stripers, it’s a good time to recall that baseball is a business. Wins cost money. Now that Moneyball concepts rule baseball, everyone knows the following mantra: You don’t buy players, you buy runs. Score enough runs, you win. The trick is not to overpay for those runs.
Well, the Dodgers certainly didn’t get a bargain. Their salary is, by a comfortable margin, the highest in baseball. In fact, comparing the Dodgers and Indians shows how a good Moneyball GM can maximize wins/dollar. This article looks at the salaries and general makeup of the two best teams in baseball, judging by the record, and makes some playoff predictions.
The Dodgers’ total payroll, according to MLB Team Payroll Tracker, http://www.spotrac.com/mlb/payroll/, is $265.1 million. All quoted figures in this article regarding payroll are from that source. In stark, if not amazing contrast, the Indians’ total payroll is almost half that figure, at $139.2. Or, to put it another way, the Dodgers spent $2.55 million per win, while the Tribe spent $1.36 million.
The Dodgers have the biggest payroll in MLB, followed at a bit of a distance by the Yankees, who spent $223.5 million to get 91 wins. The Indians payroll isn’t even average. They sit at 18th in the payroll list, and the closest team to them in payroll/wins is the Houston Astros, who spent $150 million for their 102 wins.
Ironically, the Astros seem to have focused on hitting, more than pitching. Their pitching is good, but their hitting is weirdly good. Many feel they are the best hitting team since the Murderer’s Row Yankees of the late 1920s, who were, it should be noted, the product of large salaries paid to marquee players such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Overall, the Indians are built on pitching and defense. Their hitting is good, but if you compare them to the richly-paid Dodgers, you get this:
Dodgers top three hitters, by BWARP:
1. Justin (The Beard) Turner: 5.9 Salary: $12 million.
2. Chris (The Dishy Beard) Taylor: 5.7: Salary: $.5 million.
3. Corey (No Beard at All) Seager: 5.6: Salary: $.5 million.
Indians top three hitters, by BWARP:
1. Jose Ramirez (The Beloved One): 5.9: Salary: $.5 million.
2. Francisco Lindor (Mr. Underpaid, I Mean Smile): 5.0: Salary: $.5 million.
3. Edwin (Pirate Parrot Man) Encarnation: 2.7: Salary: $13 million.
Interesting, isn’t it? The two teams are almost alike in this respect: two out of three of their best hitters are pre-arbitration.
The Dodgers’ salary is overloaded for other reasons. They pay Kershaw $33 million. Their aging first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, gets $21.5. Their center fielder, Andre Ethier, gets $17.5.
The Tribe, on the other hand, pays only Carlos Santana over $10 million. Even Andrew Miller, this year, only gets $9 million.
What is evident is that Chris Antonetti, GM of the Tribe, has put together the following potent combination heading into the playoffs, with only one other team, the Astros, in a similar Moneyball ballpark.
The Tribe has the best manager, the best bullpen, arguably the best starting pitching, and probably the best defense of any team in the playoffs. And, as they have proven by scoring 800+ runs this year, the Tribe’s hitters are good enough to score enough runs in the playoffs to beat any team they face.
I doubt the Dodgers have enough pitching to make it to the Series. But I could be wrong. I really cannot imagine a situation where the Yankees or the Astros can beat us. The Astros are very tough to beat when their hitting is on, but as we all know, hitting is trumped by pitching, and we have better pitching.
It should be very exciting. I expect the Tribe to win the World Series in six games over the Cubs. Vegas has similar expectations, so I am not going out on a limb. My final word is this: we have something money can’t buy.
His name is Tito Francona, and he is headed to the Hall of Fame. I believe he expects to bring a World Championship to Cleveland and end our generational drought. I have trouble imagining a scenario in which he will fail.