Friday, July 23, 2010

AL/NL Comparison: Final Analysis

In the previous post we’ve established a few things. First, the average All Star for either the AL or NL is 29 years old. The average American Leaguer makes roughly 25% more per season, has about 18% more total value to his team (as determined through the WAR statistic) and has 10% more big league experience than their NL counterparts. In short, this year’s AL All Stars are, on average, more expensive but more valuable than this year’s NL All Stars. Does the American League overpay for these players, though? Let’s see…

On average, American League position players have a slightly higher value every season, posting an average WAR of 3.2 while NL All Star position players posted an average WAR of 3.1 per season. Needless to say, these totals are very similar. So why are American League All Star position players paid an average of $10.36 million dollars per season when NL All Star position players are paid an average of $6.61 million per season? I suppose we’d have to ask the Steinbrenners that question to find an answer.

Dissimilarly, the American League does not appear to over pay its pitchers, at least compared to the National League. With an average WAR of 2.6 per season, AL All Star pitchers are paid an average salary of $5.74 million dollars per season. NL All Star pitchers were paid just less at $5.50 million per season but also posted lower average WAR’s at 2.2 per season. In fact, the NL pays slightly more per pitcher WAR but this is in line with the typical view of the pitching/defense-dominated National League.

To compare what all of this is worth, I decided to divide the average WAR (true value) of AL/NL position players by their average salary. I did the same thing with pitchers. I believe this gives the best true understanding of what each league is paying for and what they are receiving in return. Per win above replacement level (WAR), the American League pays its All Star position players over $370,000. By comparison, the National League paid its All Star position players only $329,000 per WAR. When it comes to pitchers, the AL leads the bidding as well. AL All Star pitchers are paid $367,000 per WAR while their NL counterparts were paid just under $330,000. Because all WAR units are truly equal, the AL definitely overpays for what it receives. By this measurement the National League does a much better job of evaluating talent getting a better “bang for the buck” than the AL does. The NL is forced to do this for a number of reasons, the biggest being that more NL teams are considered “small market” and, outside of the Phillies and Cubs, don’t have the massive salaries that are seen in the American League.

So in review, we can see that the average American League All Star is more experienced and has a slightly higher “true value” than NL All Stars. They are also overpaid when compared to their fellow NL All Stars, though. In terms of both position players and pitchers, the American League can boast a higher value for both over the NL but the National League can clearly laugh last in terms of salary efficiency. These factors may contribute to why the American League is considered by some, especially the casual observer, as the premier league. Amongst baseball critics, however, most of us appreciate the National Leagues ability to put together championship winning teams in a league that technically achieves less and definitely pays less.

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