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Tigers trail in marginal cost per win

It cost the Tigers more per marginal victory than any other team in the AL Central division, Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball reports. I know, that isn't a ground-breaking headline. The Tigers had a large payroll, with $10 million being given away to Nate Robertson and $12 million paid to Dontrelle Willis as the pair bounced around the National League and its affiliated minor leagues.

Brown explained his technique as first finding a fictional baseline team. It should win about 30% of its games with replacement-level players who each cost the league minimum salary. After that, you find out how much more the team's opening day payroll was than that of this baseline team, and how many more wins it had, and then divide. The formula:

(club payroll - (28 x major league minimum) / ((winning percentage - .300) x 162)

Brown wrote of the Tigers:

On the downside, the Tigers wound up underachieving with a high-level of player payroll. Ranked at 6th in Opening Day payroll ($122,864,928), the club spent $3,446,448 per each of their 32 marginal wins. If it’s any solace to Mike Illitch and the Tigers, the Royals, perennial cellar-dwellers, spent nearly as much per marginal win ($3,272,022)

Detroit was seventh-worst in baseball and fifth-worst in the AL by that measurement.

Given that you could not predict a playoff team based on the cost of a marginal win, this stat mainly tells you how efficiently a team spent money in a particularly year. Some high costs made the playoffs, others didn't. Some bargain teams made the playoffs, others didn't. Teams that spent more tended to have a higher marginal cost per win, and most of the teams that spent more could afford to do so. Some particularly bad teams like the Orioles and Mariners had high costs per win too.

Generally speaking, being efficient is a good thing, and the Tigers were far from efficient. Mistakes mainly made during the 2007-2008 offseasons came back to haunt them in a bad way.

On the other hand, I don't think the Tigers were exactly begging for handouts this year, despite the high payroll and lackluster results. They had the fifth best attendance in the AL and one of the better television contracts. It's easy to imagine they lost some money, but it's also easy to imagine the losses were acceptable. Especially because after checking their budget in February they still felt comfortable spending $8 million on a single season of Johnny Damon.

I'm also not sure the stat tells us much about the organization's health going forward, as the big league club had contributions from a large number of cost-controlled players early in their career. As you've heard repeatedly, a lot of money has come off the payroll. So it's kind of like a reset button.

What's your take? Does the cost of a marginal win matter? Can we learn anything from it or is it just a good excuse for a blog post on a cold, cloudy Thursday morning?