The Boston Consulting Group Growth-Share Matrix is a chart used company’s marketing departments to analyze brand marketing, product management, and money allocation towards brands. Typically in this type of analysis a company’s products are segmented into market growth and market share. So I’ve decided to use this matrix as an inspiration in analyzing a teams’ “brands” (players), who make the team money by winning games and filling seats, and by the money teams invest into their “brands”. Thus, instead of using market growth and market share; for baseball, I will use player salary and player performance (WAR).
The names for each category of the matrix will also be borrowed from the BCG-Matrix. Players with High Salary/High Performance are the “Stars”, who are invested in heavily for their high performance (For example: Albert Pujols, Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander etc.). Low Salary/High Performance players, who are typically pre-arbitration players whom have blossomed early, are the “Cash Cows” or fuel for the money that can be invested in the “Stars” (Exs. Clayton Kershaw, Alex Avila, etc). High Salary/Low Performance players are the “Dogs” of a team’s payroll, they are invested heavily into, but are not able to achieve what is expected out of that large salary (Exs., Vernon Wells, Adam Dunn, etc.) . Players who make a Low Salary, but do not perform up to “high performance” levels are the ???’s or the potential for the franchise, they could move into a Cash Cow or become a Dog (Exs., Freddie Freeman, Mitch Moreland, etc.).
The next step is to decipher what is the difference between a high performance and low performance player (brand), and what should be deemed a high salary player and low salary player. The median salary in Major League Baseball is $1.5 million, so players above this figure are “High Salary”, while players below this figure are “Low Salary”. Determining “High Performance” is more difficult. The top 100 position players in baseball in 2011 had a WAR of 2.0 or higher, thus position players with a WAR above this will be deemed “High Performance”, while if their WAR is lower they will fall into the “Low Performance” category. The top 60 starting pitchers in 2011 had a WAR of 2.4 or higher, so again above 2.4 is “High performance”, while below is “Low Performance”. The Top 50 relievers in 2011 had a WAR of 1.0 or higher, thus above 1.0 are “High Performance” relievers, while below 1.0 are “Low Performance”.
This type of segmentation is a very simple analysis of a roster and payroll, but can be useful for a teams, who may not understand what a player (brand) means to their team as a business (company). I’m sure that the Tigers’ GM understands that Alex Avila gives him the opportunity to spend more on free agents and to keep high-performing veterans around him, but for players who do not necessarily jump out that would be in a particular category it is good to visualize a roster in this fashion. This can be done with any team. I will use the Atlanta Braves’ 2011 roster as an example; because the Braves are the median payroll (15th highest) in the MLB at 92.2 million dollars (mean payroll around $95 million).
Now, I’m sure that the Braves Front office understands that Brandon Beachy and Craig Kimbrel give them room to spend, but without looking at this analysis would they consider Jair Jurrjens, a waste of their money? That is a question they should be asking, and many teams should asking after putting their players into these segments.