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The cost of winning in the AL Central

It's no secret, the Tigers have been big spenders over the past several years. From 2004 when the payroll was a paltry $46.8 million to 2008 when it hit $137M and trailed just the two New York teams, the Tigers saw their payroll grow yearly.

They signed Pudge Rodriguez before the 2004 season, Magglio Ordonez before 2005 and made smart trade after smart trade to turn the Tigers from a team of also-rans that lost 119 to a team that played in the World Series. Some of the deals were paying to entice a winning player to a loser franchise. Some of the deals since made sense at the time and failed. And of course, some deals made absolutely no sense. (I've chronicled a lot of this at Mack Avenue Tigers in the past.)

Unfortunately, no team has gotten less for more in the American League Central than the Tigers. They have spent $430.5 million since 2005 with exactly no division titles to show for it and just one playoff appearance. While this puts them one World Series appearance ahead of the Indians, Royals and Twins -- making 2006 a magical year that brought many fans back to the team who had otherwise forgotten about it -- it has been a bit of a letdown on the whole to see so little come from so much spending.

After the jump, a chart!

Cost per win in the AL Central, 2005-09

Team 2005-09 payroll 2005-09 wins Cost per win Division title League title
Tigers $430,563,576 414 1,040,009
White Sox $428,680,332 429 999,255 2 1
Indians $278,253,996 414 672,111 1
Royals $243,175,333 327 743,655
Twins $254,165,538 422 602,288 2

Payroll source: USA Today

(Tom Verducci has his own version of this at, written for the entire decade, if you want to include a few more factors).

It should come as no surprise the Tigers were at their most efficient in 2006, when they spun an $86 million payroll into an American League title (at $869,000 per win). And the disappointing 2008 was the worst year, at $1.86 million per win and a sub-.500 record. Last season was better -- how could it not be? Each win cost $1.34 million in payroll.

Of course, anyone who follows this team is not shocked to find out the Tigers have been wasteful with their money in the past.

What does this mean? Maybe nothing. The Yankees are not exactly efficient but win anyway. (For comparison, they spent nearly $800 million over the past five years and made just one World Series appearance.). Meanwhile the Royals lose efficiently enough. No Tigers fan would ever want to trade places with that franchise.

With a projected opening day payroll of $125-$130 million, the Tigers will actually take another step backwards in efficiency in 2010 with anything less than 94 wins. It will take another season to see how GM Dave Dombrowski's adjustments turn out in 2011, though it seems likely the Tigers will continue to spend more than $1 million per win.

Fortunately for Tigers fans, the owner is a billionaire who does not seem concerned over this inefficiency. Hopefully he continues with that view, or the Tigers could be in trouble given the direction they've been going.