In 1964 Paul Simon wrote probably his most famous song, the Sound of Silence. Believe it or not, that song when first released did not go over very well. Right now if you try to listen for exciting sounds coming from the St. Louis Cardinals front office, you are hearing their version of that song. The silence is deafening and it isn’t going over well with the fans.
There are still several free agents and trade targets left so it’s not time to panic, yet. St. Louis fans would love to see the Cardinals spend all of Bill Dewitt JR’s money and get to the level of the Yankees and Dodgers. That will not happen. When John Mozeliak said “I think we have to be prudent on how we think through some of this,” that pretty much told us the blueprint for what is to come. And that is okay with me. It’s one thing to have a roster full of All-Stars, it’s another to have a team in the World Series. It’s not always spending the most money that wins championships.
What does usually win though is how that money is spent. Are the Cardinals being really ‘prudent’ with how they are investing their money? There might be some value in looking at what happened last year.
Spotrac listed the Cardinals as having the 17th-highest payroll. That bought them a last-place finish in our division and only the Rockies had fewer wins in the National League.
One of the ways that we put a value on players is by looking at their WAR. Wins Above Replacement. I will use the same measurement for the team as a whole to see if we can capture any meaningful data that might help us answer that question.
Let’s look at the batters first. Mozeliak’s phrase of pitching, pitching, pitching lets us know there won’t be any serious additions to the offense. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s numbers they spent $106 million on the offense. The team’s offensive WAR was 18.3. That calculates to $5.8 million dollars spent for each win above replacement. That is the 22nd most spent per WAR in the league. The Rays ranked the best. The World Series teams were near the top with the Rangers ranking 7th and the Diamondbacks 5th.
The pitching was even worse. The Cardinals spent 83.9 million on pitching. The combined WAR was 6.6. The Cardinals spent $12.7 million per WAR for their pitchers. Only the Rockies and the Royals invested more poorly in their pitching staff.
Another way to compare how teams are spending their money is dollars per win. The Atlanta Braves had a huge payroll of $206 million dollars but they won 104 games last year. The Cardinals with their $153 million dollar payroll won 71 games. The Cardinals spent $2.1 million dollars per win. The Braves spent $1.9 million per win. Not only did the Braves spend a lot more but they spent it more wisely. The Mets on the other hand spent $4.5 million for each of their 75 wins so it could be worse.
Is it possible for the front office to see what the Cardinals are doing now is not the definition of prudent? Maybe. After the Sound of Silence registered very disappointing sales, Tom Wilson, the producer, went back into the studio and completely remixed the record. When it was released the second time it went to number one. If the Cardinals don’t want to spend more money maybe they just need to remix how they are spending what they have.