Bottom-Lining the Lineup

Baseball finance is a hot topic again. How much do you know about the connection between money spent and games won?
CFO StaffSeptember 1, 2011

This month, the film version of Michael Lewis’s acclaimed book Moneyball arrives in theaters, just in time to see whether its central argument — that the shrewd use of analytics can, at least to some degree, level the playing field between wealthy and less-wealthy baseball teams — still holds up. Moneyball shone a light on practices that have not only spread throughout sports, but throughout all of business. In that spirit, this month’s quiz looks at some of the fascinating financial stats in Lewis’s book, as well as in baseball currently.

1) At the start of the 2002 baseball season, the New York Mets had the highest team payroll, at $126 million. They ended the season:
A. Winning the National League pennant
B. Second in their division
C. At .500
D. Last in their division

2) That same season, the Oakland A’s finished the regular season one win shy of having the best record in baseball, with a team salary equal to:
A. One-fourth of the Mets’
B. One-third of the Mets’
C. Half of the Mets’
D. Two-thirds of the Mets’

3) The Tampa Bay Rays’ team salary was nearly identical to Oakland’s in 2002, a year in which the Rays:
A. Won the division
B. Earned a wild-card spot
C. Won a franchise-best 87 games
D. Finished 48 games out of first place

4) Lewis cites an observation by baseball-finance expert Doug Pappas that, thanks to the role of luck and the “relatively small difference in ability” between most Major League Baseball players, even a team on which no player makes more than the minimum salary could expect to win approximately:
A. 35 games
B. 49 games
C. 56 games
D. 61 games

5) Therefore, a measure of a team’s “financial efficiency” becomes how much it pays for each win over that minimum. Between 2000 and 2002, Oakland paid about half a million dollars for each such win. High-salaried but relatively unsuccessful teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers paid:
A. $1 million per win
B. $2 million per win
C. $3 million per win
D. $4 million per win

6) This season, of the 10 MLB teams with the lowest team payrolls, the number with a record above .500 at press time (August 15) was:
A. 0
B. 2
C. 4
D. 6

7) This season, the New York Yankees have the highest team salary, at $203 million. The Kansas City Royals have the lowest, equivalent to what % of the Yankees’?
A. 18%
B. 27%
C. 33%
D. 41%

8) Among the most enthusiastic adopters of new, more sophisticated baseball metrics were fans who participate in so-called rotisserie leagues, a name that derives from:
A. A restaurant at which one such league was launched
B. The practice of rotating the senior-most organizational role among participants
C. The observation that players tend to be traded around “like chickens on a spit”
D. The practice of launching the season with an all-member barbecue

Sources: Moneyball, USA Today, Major League Baseball

Answers: 1–D; 2–B; 3–D; 4–B; 5–C; 6–C; 7–A; 8–A