salary vs. performance

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This sketch looks at all 30 Major League Baseball Teams and ranks them on the left according to their day-to-day standings. The lines connect each team to their 2005 salary, listed on the right.

Drag the date at the top to move through the season. The first ten days of the season are omitted because the rankings to (at least) that point are statistically silly. You can also use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move forward or backward one day.

A steep blue line means that the team is doing well for its money, which reflects well on the team's General Manager. A steep red line implies that the team is throwing away money (the New York Yankees for at least the first half of the 2005 season).

Some background for people who don't watch/follow/care about baseball:

The Yankees had a particularly bad year, with a team full of aging all-stars and owner George Steinbrenner hoping that a World Series trophy could be purchased for $208 million. The World Champion Red Sox did an ample job of defending their title, but as the second highest paid team in baseball, they're not exactly young upstarts. The Chicago White Sox are had an excellent year with just one third the salary of the Yankees, while the Cardinals are performing roughly on par with what they're paid. Interestingly, the White Sox went on to win the World Series.

The performance of Oakland, which for the last few years has far exceeded their overall salary, was a story, largely about their General Manager Billy Beane, told in the book Moneyball His assistant, J.P. Ricciardi, took this approach to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002, who have had mixed results (a disastrous 2004, a better 2005). The Washington Nationals, who were the Montreal Expos until this year, have also been outperforming through the first half of the season, though I expect to see them tank (as the Orioles are doing in early August) before the season is out. (This is a ridiculous over-simplification of the whole system intended only to provide some background)

Some background for people who do watch/follow/care about baseball:

I neglected to include a caveat on the original page that this is a really simplistic view of salary vs. performance. I created this piece because the World Series victory of my beloved Red Sox was somewhat bittersweet in the sense that the second highest paid team in baseball finally managed to win a championship. This fact made me curious about how that works across the league, with raw salaries and the general performance of the individual teams.

There are far more complex things about how contracts work over multiple years, how the farm system works, and scoring methods for individual players that could be taken into consideration. This piece was thrown together while watching a game, so it's perhaps dangerously un-advanced, given the amount of time and energy that's put into the analysis of sports statistics.

Update, October 12, 2005

With the 2005 regular season now finished, the applet now just uses the data from the whole season, rather than dynamically grabbing the new data each day.

Update, April 18, 2006

Baseball season has started again, and I've posted the 2006 version of this piece.

Built with Processing, an open-source programming environment for teaching computational design and sketching interactive media software.