With baseball’s playoffs coming up soon, I thought it would be a good time to dust off a project I started back in April. Every year there are a handful of articles written about how the wild card has brought competitive balance to baseball, which most fans of the game know is an absurd statement. I did a little digging into the numbers from 1995 (the year the wild card format officially began) until 2011 (the last year of the single wild card). The results are startling only in how much money actually matters. Below are some rough graphs. I’ll try to finish them up before the playoffs begin.
Looking at the data, there was clearly bigger gaps that simply “rich teams” and “poor teams” and so I tried to take a systematic approach in dividing the teams into groups. For each year, I found the average team payroll and the standard deviation from that average, and then bracketed teams based on how many standard deviations from the average they fell in either direction: teams that were within one standard deviation above the average were called simply “Above Average Teams”, teams within one standard deviation below the average were called “Below Average Teams”, and so on.