Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AL/NL Comparison: The Facts

Before we begin, let me announce that the All Star rosters do not represent a perfect sample for league-wide analysis. With that said, some things still do stand out and I suspect that if I were able to compare all the criteria listed above for every player in each league I would probably find similar results. Also, these rosters should represent the best players in each league so, as one might expect, salaries and career achievements are noticeably higher than your average player. Each roster should represent a similar talent level, however, and this was evident when the game played on the field was so dramatically close. Lets take a close look at the results of each criteria.

Age: I was somewhat surprised to see that the average of any given player in either league was almost exactly 29 year of age. That means that for each league I totaled up the age of every player and divided it by the number of players counted. Surprisingly, each league was nearly identical. I had expected the AL to be at least 1 or maybe 2 years older on average since this is the league where someone with “old player skills” can usually still flourish. After looking at the data, however, I assumed that either I was wrong about the American League being the “senior circuit” or players with “old player skills” aren’t usually voted into the All Star Game. Either way, age didn’t play much of a factor in the initial analysis.

Salary: Salary saw a relatively large discrepancy between leagues. This, too, was expected before I ran the numbers. Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox artificially inflate the salaries paid in the AL while the National League contains more stereotypically small-market teams. This shouldn’t be news to any of us and it was clearly reflected in the average salary of a player in either league. AL players averaged a salary of $8,384,568 while NL players averaged a salary of $6,165,028. That’s roughly a discrepancy of $2.2 million per player across the two leagues. Of course players like Alex Rodriguez don’t help this comparison by making $33 million this season while the top earner in the NL, Ryan Howard, makes a paltry $19 million per season. In fact, there are four players on the AL roster that out-earn Howard: A-Rod, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia and Miguel Cabrera. For arguments sake, there is simply no team in the National League that could take on the salaries that the Yankees do. It’s not only the Yankee players (and Cabrera) that establish the comparison results, though. Across the board one can see that the American League All Stars clearly out-earn their NL counterparts.

WAR: To calculate the success or effectiveness of players in each league, I found the average career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of each roster, AL and NL. If you are unfamiliar with the WAR statistic it can most easily be described as the “total value of a player over a given season”. In short, it gives a snapshot of success, value, effectiveness, or performance per season. To find the average career WAR per player (per league), I totaled the career WAR of every player on each team’s roster and then divided by the number of players on that roster. The average career WAR for an American League All Star was 22.6 while National League All Stars averaged a career war of 18.7. In WAR terms, this shows a fairly significant drop off in terms of total player value across the two leagues. In fact, it represents a nearly 18% loss of total player value over the average NL All Star’s career when compared to the average AL All Star. This shows a clear discrepancy of career “greatness” or performance between the two rosters with the American League’s roster clearly out performing the NL roster over the average player’s career.

Major League Seasons: This set of criteria is about as unscientific as it can get. I added up the career experience of each player per roster and divided by the number of players on that roster to find the average experience of American League and National League All Stars. While the average age of players was nearly identical from AL to NL, the American League All Stars have, on average, almost 10% more big-league experience that the NL All Stars. American Leaguers have an average of 7.6 major league seasons while National Leaguers averaged only 7 major league seasons. This shows that the American League roster was slightly more experienced than the NL roster.

Now that we’ve established the facts, we’ll take a deeper examination in my next post.

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