Pollis: How much does a win really cost?

From SABR member Lewie Pollis at Beyond the Box Score on October 15, 2013:

It’s a near-truism of sabermetrics that a marginal win costs around $5 million. If you get a two-win player for $8 million, that’s a bargain. If you get a one-win player for $6 million, that’s an overpay. In most corners of the analytical baseball world, player acquisitions and signings are judged as fair, ripoffs, or bargains according to this standard.

But there’s a problem: a win doesn’t cost $5 million. A win costs $7 million. Well, actually it’s $7,032,099, but calling it $7 million is fine.

Let me back up. As I started to plan ahead for my senior thesis, I realized my analysis depended on having good empirical data for the market value of a win for each season in the post-strike era. The most popular estimates for the annual cost of a win are those calculated by Dave Cameron and hosted on FanGraphs. But Cameron’s figures don’t go back as far as my research required, and more to the point I was skeptical about some of the specifics of his methodology.

So I came up with my own estimates for how much a win has cost over the last 18 seasons. And my results are quite different from the conventional wisdom.

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This page was last updated October 15, 2013 at 10:35 am MST.

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