MLB Power Rankings: Every Team Ranked by Who Is Getting Most Bang for Its Buck

Doug MeadCorrespondent IMay 23, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Every Team Ranked by Who Is Getting Most Bang for Its Buck

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    In Major League Baseball, the bottom line for each team is more closely monitored than ever before. More attention is placed on team payroll and how it correlates to on-field success.

    The 2012 season was a prime example. Of the teams ranked in the top 10 in payroll, only five qualified for the postseason. By contrast, the Oakland A's had the second-lowest payroll in baseball, yet they nearly made it to the ALCS.

    It's all about trying to get the most bang for the buck, especially for small- and mid-market teams who have limited resources.

    Oakland not only had the second-lowest payroll, it also had the third-worst attendance in the American League. With limited revenue streams, it beat the odds.

    The Tampa Bay Rays have qualified for the postseason three times in the past six years despite perennially being at or near the bottom in payroll. They have been the poster child for getting the most bang for their buck.

    This year, several teams find themselves near the top of the standings despite their payroll limitations. Just how are they doing it?

    Here is a ranking of MLB teams and their ability to stretch the almighty dollar.

     

    Note: Team payroll figures courtesy of the Associated Press (h/t CBSSports.com). Team statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com. Player contract figures courtesy of Cot's Contracts.

Criteria for Ranking

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    Before diving into the presentation, it's important to understand just how the rankings were determined.

    Since the headline refers to "bang," team statistics are used to reflect that term. Six team categories have been selected according to their relative ranking within MLB:

     

    Team OPS
    Team SLG
    Team ERA
    Team Pitching WAR
    Team Batting WAR
    Win-Loss Record

    The average of those rankings is then determined. For instance:

    Team OPS Rank SLG Rank ERA Rank P WAR Rank O WAR Rank W-L Rank Avg. Rank
    Arizona 15 15 2 8 12 6 10

    The average rank is then divided by the number of wins thus far in the 2013 season. From that point, payroll rank and average rank of categories is calculated to determine placement on this list.

    Is it a completely scientific method for determining each team's bang for its buck? No, but it at least attempts to explain the formula used for the rankings to follow.

30. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Well, shocker of shockers.

    It shouldn't be all that much of a surprise that the Los Angeles Dodgers get the least bang for their buck.

    After spending over a half-billion dollars in player acquisitions over the past eight months and becoming just the second team in MLB history with a payroll over $200 million, the Dodgers are in last place in the National League West.

    Here is how the Dodgers currently rank in MLB:

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    25 29 14 18 20 22 21 2

    At this point, the Dodgers are a glaring example of money not being well spent. Injuries have absolutely hurt their cause, but power outages by both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier haven't helped, nor has an overall lack of production from the left side of the infield.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million): .309 BA, 4 HR, 30 RBI, .806 OPS

    Carl Crawford ($20 million): .302 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 9 SB, .823 OPS

    Matt Kemp ($20 million): .270 BA, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB, .676 OPS

    Zack Greinke ($17 million): 2-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

29. New York Mets

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    The New York Mets are in the middle of the pack in terms of payroll, but their investment simply hasn't paid dividends.

    Their offense averages just over four runs per game, but their team ERA of 4.51 is the second-worst in the National League.

    The main culprit is the bullpen—the Mets' 54 percent save conversion rate is the third-worst in the NL, and their 4.73 ERA comes in dead last.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
     28  26  25  26  24  28  26  17

    Every facet of the roster has factored into the team's overall performance thus far, with the exception of Matt Harvey. Taking him out of the pitching equation makes things considerably worse.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Johan Santana ($25.5 million): injured, out for entire season

    David Wright ($11 million): .293, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .885 OPS

28. Los Angeles Angels

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    The other team from the City of Angels also hasn't done much to show it's spent its money wisely.

    The Los Angeles Angels have struggled all season long and now sit with a record two games worse than their horrid start of 21-25 last season after 46 games.

    Time isn't running out for the Angels, but that point will come soon if they continue their lethargic play.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    8 8 27 22 22 24 19 6

    With the sixth-highest payroll in baseball, the Angels can point to several factors for their slow start. The big-hitting trio of Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have yet to be major factors, the starting rotation's ERA of 4.68 ranks 10th in the American League and the team is hitting .251 with runners in scoring position.

    Owner Arte Moreno likely expected a lot more bang for the bucks he's put out lately.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Albert Pujols ($16 million): .253 BA, 7 HR, 28 RBI, .743 OPS

    Jered Weaver ($16 million): 0-1, 4.91 ERA, on disabled list

    Josh Hamilton ($15 million): .225 BA, 6 HR, 16 RBI, .666 OPS

27. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Despite the extreme makeover of the roster over the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays are in last place in the American League East.

    All of the wheeling and dealing done by general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been for naught thus far. Injuries to Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson haven't helped the cause, but neither have slow starts by Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Emilio Bonifacio, three of the players brought in by Anthopoulos over the winter.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    15 13 29 27 25 24 22 10

    The Blue Jays have plenty of power with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia leading the way. But they're struggling to score runners in scoring position, ranked third-worst in the AL.

    The inability of starters to go deep into games has hurt as well. Jays starters are barely averaging 5.1 innings per game.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Jose Bautista ($14 million): .275 BA, 11 HR, 27 RBI, .967 OPS

    Josh Johnson ($13.75 million): 0-1, 6.86 ERA, on disabled list

    Mark Buehrle ($11 million): 1-3, 5.90 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 5.9 K/9

26. Miami Marlins

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    With the purging of their roster starting last July, the Miami Marlins cut their payroll in half by Opening Day. The results of that purge thus far have been nothing but predictable.

    The two bats the Marlins can lean on for production—Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison—are both on the disabled list. Morrison has started his rehab and could be back by early June.

    First-year manager Mike Redmond has had to mix and match lineups since Opening Day, trying to find at least some semblance of an offense.

    However, it isn't working.

    In fact, the Marlins offense could be historically bad.

    This is clearly a case where a team is performing below even the lowest of expectations.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    30 30 18 25 30 30 27 29

    The Marlins are playing down to their payroll, and they could end up with dubious records as a result.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Ricky Nolasco ($11.5 million): 3-5, 3.96 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

25. Philadelphia Phillies

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    With three players making $20 million and several others making $10 million or more, it's safe to say that the Philadelphia Phillies are nowhere near getting maximum bang for their buck.

    The Phillies' bullpen ERA of 4.63 is better than only that of the New York Mets in the National League. Take Jonathan Papelbon and his 1.02 ERA out of the equation, and they're the worst in the majors.

    The offense isn't much better, ranked 12th in the NL in runs scored and hitting just .248 at Citizens Bank Park.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    26 24 20 24 23 17 22 3

    With the third-highest payroll in the majors, the Phillies have fallen far short of solid value for their dollar.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Cliff Lee ($25 million): 5-2, 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.8 K/9

    Roy Halladay ($20 million): 2-4, 8.65 ERA, on disabled list

    Ryan Howard ($20 million): .263 BA, 6 HR, 25 RBI, .740 OPS

    Cole Hamels ($19.5 million): 1-7, 4.45 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.2 K/9

24. Milwaukee Brewers

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    One only has to look at one telling statistic to characterize the 2013 season for the Milwaukee Brewers thus far: pitching.

    The Brewers' 4.53 team ERA is the worst in the National League, and their 5.28 ERA from the starting rotation is easily the worst.

    With a 3.76 ERA, newcomer Kyle Lohse is the low mark among starters, but that comes with a 1-5 record as well.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    12 12 26 28 14 26 20 16

    Most expected that the rotation would hold the Brewers back in 2013, and that has certainly come to fruition to this point.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Kyle Lohse ($11 million): 1-5, 3.76 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.1 K/9

    Rickie Weeks ($10 million): .169, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .547 OPS

    Corey Hart ($10 million): injured, yet to play

    Aramis Ramirez ($10 million): .344 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .977 OPS

23. Chicago Cubs

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    In the second year of their rebuild, the Chicago Cubs are about where most expected them to be.

    No one had any illusions in terms of the Cubs' chances for a postseason berth this year, and their performance thus far has backed that up.

    There are positives, however. With the exception of Edwin Jackson, the starting rotation has been solid, with the sixth-best ERA in the National League.

    Youngster Anthony Rizzo has proven to be the real deal and a player worth building around. Veterans Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus have been consistent throughout the year as well.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    18 11 10 13 18 26 16 14

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Alfonso Soriano ($18 million): .264 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .699 OPS

    Edwin Jackson ($11 million): 1-6, 5.76 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 8.3 K/9

    Matt Garza ($10.25 million): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, just returned from injury

    Carlos Marmol ($9.8 million): 2-2, 2 SV, 4.76 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 9.0 K/9

22. Minnesota Twins

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    After playing above .500 and surprising many with their excellent play, the Minnesota Twins have come crashing back down to earth with eight straight losses.

    In slipping back into last place in the American League Central, the Twins can lay blame on several areas.

    The 5.69 ERA from the starting rotation is one cause, now ranked second-to-last in the AL. The lack of power, resulting in a last-place rank in slugging percentage, certainly hasn't helped the offense either.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    24 27 28 16 26 23 24 23

    These rankings simply won't suffice over the course of a full season for the Twins to have any chance in the AL Central.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Joe Mauer ($23 million): .337 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, .895 OPS

    Justin Morneau ($14 million): .314 BA, 2 HR, 31 RBI, .766 OPS

    Josh Willingham ($7 million): .205 BA, 6 HR, 19 RBI, .777 OPS

21. Chicago White Sox

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    The Chicago White Sox defeated the Boston Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday, but the six runs scored on Monday is a sight that's been rare in 2013.

    The White Sox are in last place in a number of offensive categories, including runs scored, on-base percentage and plating runners in scoring position.

    The pitching has been solid, but it simply hasn't been enough to carry the team through the first 45 games.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    27 23 11 3 29 19 19 9

    With their 3.45 ERA, Sox starters are the best in the American League—and that's without the services of Gavin Floyd, lost for the season with Tommy John surgery, and John Danks, still recovering from shoulder surgery.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Adam Dunn ($15 million): .163 BA, 11 HR, 25 RBI, .661 OPS

    Jake Peavy ($14.5 million): 5-2, 3.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

    John Danks ($14.25 million): on disabled list, shoulder surgery

    Paul Konerko ($13.5 million): .224 BA, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .642 OPS

20. Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners brought in some talent over the offseason with the acquisitions of Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Joe Saunders.

    That talent has helped, but only marginally. Seattle's offense still struggles to score, currently in 14th place in the American League. Only the Chicago White Sox have scored less.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    22 20 23 15 21 21 20 20

    The terrific starts to the season by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have aided the rotation, but newcomer Saunders and the rest of the starters have struggled. Tom Wilhelmsen has been virtually unhittable throughout the season from the bullpen.

    But it's once again all about an offense that can't plate runs.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Felix Hernandez ($19 million): 5-3, 2.07 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.3 K/9

    Franklin Gutierrez ($7 million): .259, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .823 OPS, on disabled list

    Aaron Harang ($7 million): 1-5, 8.58 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 8.6 K/9

19. Houston Astros

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    With a payroll lower than this year's salary for Alex Rodriguez, the Houston Astros have largely struggled to get anything going thus far in 2013.

    At a record of 14-33, they certainly threaten to be even worse than the 1962 New York Mets.

    With a payroll of just over $27 million, the Astros haven't provided a whole lot of bang for their not-so-considerable bucks. But they can at least lay claim to the fact that they won't finish last in something this year.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    23 18 30 29 28 29 26 30

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Bud Norris ($3 million): 4-4, 3.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 5.6 K/9

    Carlos Pena ($2.9 million): .233 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .707 OPS

18. Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals find themselves just one game above .500 after salvaging the final game of their series against the San Francisco Giants.

    Fortunately for the Nationals, the Atlanta Braves haven't taken off in the NL East, leaving them just 4.5 games off the pace.

    Still, it's a shaky start for a team largely expected to be neck-and-neck with the Braves at the top, with the possibility of at least matching its 98 wins last year.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    29 28 7 11 27 16 20 12

    The numbers tell the story—the Nationals offense simply hasn't gotten off the mat.

    Danny Espinosa is hitting just .163, and slugger Adam LaRoche is hitting just .219, although he has heated up in the month of May. If this team heats up offensively, it can thank its lucky stars that Atlanta stumbled after a 12-1 start.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Jayson Werth ($16 million): .260 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .708 OPS, currently on disabled list

    Ryan Zimmerman ($14 million): .274 BA, 3 HR, 23 RBI, .800 OPS

    Rafael Soriano ($14 million): 1-1, 13 SV, 3.00 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

    Dan Haren ($13 million): 4-5, 5.54 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

17. San Diego Padres

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    Despite making virtually no moves during the offseason, the San Diego Padres are at least giving the impression that they can play competitive baseball.

    At 21-25, the Padres are in fourth place in the NL West, and thus far, the shortened fences at Petco Park haven't hurt their pitching staff too badly. At this point, the Padres have a 3.77 ERA at home—just a third of a run worse than their 3.44 ERA at home in 2012.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    21 25 22 30 11 20 22 25

    While the pitching hasn't been altogether awful, the offense has been spotty. The expected power from Carlos Quentin hasn't materialized; he's hitting just .178 with four home runs.

    When you have a platoon player in right fielder Will Venable leading the team in home runs, you have to know the Padres aren't a team that can generate a vast amount of runs.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Carlos Quentin ($9.5 million): .178, 4 HR, 14 RBI, .674 OPS

    Chase Headley ($8.6 million): .281, 4 HR, 14 RBI, .850 OPS

16. Kansas City Royals

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    Kansas City Royals owner David Glass followed through on his promise to spend for pitching, and the results have certainly been positive thus far.

    With the third-best ERA in the American League, the Royals pitching staff is holding up its end of the bargain.

    The same can't be said thus far of the offense.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    19 22 9 9 17 18 16 22

    Even with the acquisitions made by the Royals, they're still in the bottom third of the league in payroll.

    Their offense is also in the bottom third in many statistical categories. Mike Moustakas has struggled mightily, with a .176 average and four homers, and the entire team has struggled in the power department with just 27 homers.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Ervin Santana ($13 million): 3-3, 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.2 K/9

    James Shields ($9 million): 2-5, 2.47 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.5 K/9

    Alex Gordon ($9 million): .352 BA, 6 HR, 29 RBI, .920 OPS

15. San Francisco Giants

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    The San Francisco Giants have had some performances issues with their vaunted pitching staff thus far, keeping them from pulling away in the NL West.

    Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have struggled to pitch up to expectations, yet the team is locked in a three-way tie atop the division with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

    Fortunately for the Giants, their offense has more than pulled its weight. The team is fourth in the National League in runs scored and leads the league with a .272 batting average.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    11 14 16 20 1 10 12 7

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Tim Lincecum ($22 million): 3-3, 4.70 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 9.4 K/9

    Matt Cain ($20 million): 3-2, 5.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.0 K/9

    Barry Zito ($20 million): 3-3, 3.91 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 5.5 K/9

14. Oakland Athletics

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    Last year's Oakland Athletics squad clearly got more bang for its buck than any other team in the majors.

    This year, the dollar isn't going quite as far.

    The A's took two out of three at Texas to stay just 5.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West. After 48 games, they're actually three games ahead of last year's pace.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    14 17 17 10 16 15 15 27

    Considering the A's have the fourth-lowest payroll in baseball, they're still getting value for their dollar—just not quite like last year.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Chris Young ($8.5 million): .168 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, .624 OPS

    Yoenis Cespedes ($8.5 million): .212 BA, 9 HR, 22 RBI, .744 OPS

13. Baltimore Orioles

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    Squarely in the middle in terms of overall bang for their buck, the Baltimore Orioles are dead even in terms of payroll as well.

    It's a split right down the middle for Baltimore—the team is not giving away value, but it's not stealing it either.

    Although the Orioles have been sluggish, losing seven of their last 10 games, and have rotation concerns, they're still just three games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    6 2 21 19 8 13 12 15

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Nick Markakis ($15 million): .292 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI, .744 OPS

    Brian Roberts ($10 million): .417, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .917 OPS; on disabled list, ruptured tendon

    Adam Jones ($8.5 million): .316 BA, 6 HR, 30 RBI, .837 OPS

12. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Even though the Tampa Bay Rays have the third-lowest payroll in the league, their above-.500 performance thus far shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, they've had one of the lowest payrolls since 2008, yet they've still managed three playoff appearances in five seasons.

    The Rays have done it with great pitching in the past, but this year, they're getting it done with a pretty solid offense—one ranked in the top 10 in slugging, OPS and offensive WAR.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    7 7 24 21
    3 14 13 28

    Consider that the Rays signed first baseman James Loney for just $2 million, and he's third in the American League with a .350 average. They signed Fernando Rodney for just $1.75 million last year, and he delivered a 0.60 ERA with 48 saves.

    This is a team that finds value in pieces discarded by others.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    David Price ($10.1 million): 1-4, 5.24 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, on disabled list

    Evan Longoria ($6 million): .335 BA, 9 HR, 29 RBI, .984 OPS

11. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    All of the wheeling and dealing done this offseason by Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has his team at least competing early.

    Tied with the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies atop the NL West, the Diamondbacks have gotten solid pitching along with an offense that's at least keeping up.

    Even with all the moves made by Towers, team payroll is relatively low at just $89.8 million. It's certainly too early to start counting their blessings, but the Diamondbacks have to be happy with the team they've assembled thus far.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    16 15 4 8
    13 10 11 18

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Miguel Montero ($10 million): .189 BA, 3 HR, 14 RBI, .547 OPS

    Heath Bell ($9 million): 2-0, 6 SV, 4.50 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 11.5 K/9

10. Detroit Tigers

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    This past winter, Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave the green light to deals for both Anibal Sanchez and Torii Hunter that added another $100-plus million to the expense sheet.

    After spending $214 million last offseason for the services of Prince Fielder and still falling short of a World Series, it seemed clear that Ilitch wasn't giving up on that goal.

    He certainly can't complain about the performances he's received from both Sanchez and Hunter at this point, but the Tigers find themselves in a dogfight with the Cleveland Indians.

    Anything short of a World Series would be unacceptable for the man who has spent over $300 million trying to make that happen.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    2 5 15 1
    6 9 6 5

    Even with the fifth-highest payroll in baseball, the Tigers are delivering value and getting bang.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Prince Fielder ($23 million): .276 BA, 9 HR, 39 RBI, .921 OPS

    Miguel Cabrera ($21 million) .387 BA, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 1.144 OPS

    Justin Verlander ($20 million): 5-4, 3.66 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 10.5 K/9

9. New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees lost to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, but that doesn't take away from the fact that they're actually getting value despite their astronomical payroll.

    At just above $230 million, the Yankees almost could have been forgiven if their record had been significantly worse than their current mark of 28-18.

    After all, just over $96 million of that payroll is currently on the disabled list.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    13 10 8 6 19 4 10 1

    It's hard to argue that the Yankees are getting bang for their buck. But the numbers don't lie—this is a team that's working for every penny on the dollar.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Alex Rodriguez ($28 million): on disabled list, hip surgery

    Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million): on disabled list, strained wrist tendon

    CC Sabathia ($23 million) 4-3, 3.43 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.7 K/9

    Derek Jeter ($17 million): on disabled list, ankle surgery

8. Boston Red Sox

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    At 28-19, the Boston Red Sox are just a half-game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. Considering their fate last year, along with a payroll that was significantly higher, all are happy in Beantown.

    It's still the fourth-highest payroll in the majors, but the Red Sox are certainly getting a lot more bang for their buck. Gone are the $20 million players; in their place are players still making a ridiculous amount of money, but for a shorter period of time. Unlike their departed brethren, they are contributing too.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    4 6 13 4 5 7 7 4

    The Red Sox are in the top 10 in all above categories except one. With their 69-93 record last year and a $175 million payroll, management has to at least be gratified early on.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    John Lackey ($15.25 million): 2-4, 3.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.8 K/9

    David Ortiz ($14 million): .351 BA, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 1.018 OPS

    Ryan Dempster ($13.25 million): 2-4, 4.27 ERA, 1.31 ERA, 10.8 K/9

7. Cleveland Indians

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    Are the Cleveland Indians this year's version of the Oakland Athletics? With their start to the season, they're certainly out to prove they are.

    The Indians hold a half-game lead in the AL Central over the Detroit Tigers, who have a payroll $68 million higher. That's eerily close to the difference between the A's and Texas Rangers last year.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    1 1 19 23 2 8 9 21

    The performance of the offense has been, in a word, outstanding. The power supplied by newcomers Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher has certainly helped, as has the gritty play of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Nick Swisher ($11 million): .274 BA, 6 HR, 16 RBI, .875 OPS

    Chris Perez ($7.3 million): 2-0, 6 SV, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

6. Colorado Rockies

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    Here's a news alert: Colorado Rockies pitching doesn't stink.

    That was certainly not the case last year, when the Rockies were last in the majors with a 5.22 ERA. Their 3.79 ERA is in the middle of the pack in the National League this year, and it's certainly made a difference with their current first-place standing in the NL West.

    Analysts expected the offense to be good, and it hasn't disappointed—the Rockies lead the National League in runs scored, slugging and OPS.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    5 4 12 7
    10 10 8 24

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Jorge De La Rosa ($11 million): 6-3, 3.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 5.5 K/9

    Michael Cuddyer ($10.5 million): .319 BA, 7 HR, 23 RBI, .963 OPS

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The way the Pittsburgh Pirates started their 2013 season, it looked like all was lost after just one week.

    With a 1-5 start and an offense that was borderline pathetic, the Pirates certainly looked like they were a lock to extend their consecutive-season losing streak to 21 years.

    But one week does not a season make. The Pirates are right in the thick of things in the NL Central, now 28-18 after winning eight of their last 10 games.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    20 19 2 17 12 4 12 26

    The Pirates, as in many years past, are near the bottom of the league in terms of payroll. But key acquisitions made this offseason have clearly made a difference. Catcher Russell Martin has had a stabilizing influence on the rotation, and Francisco Liriano has looked terrific in his first three starts of the season.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Wandy Rodriguez ($8 million*): 5-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.6 K/9

    A.J. Burnett ($8 million*): 3-4, 2.57 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 11.3 K/9

    Russell Martin ($6.5 million): .262, 6 HR, 12 RBI, .844 OPS

     

    * Portion of salary paid by Pirates

4. Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves have stumbled somewhat since breaking out with a 12-1 start. But they're still sitting on top of the NL East, despite slumps from several of their biggest stars.

    With Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and newcomer B.J. Upton not playing to their capabilities quite yet, the Braves can be thankful that other key contributors, such as Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, have been there to pick up the slack.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    9 9 5 14 4 4 8 19

    The acquisition of Justin Upton has indeed made a difference for the Braves, and one could certainly make a case for Upton in terms of MVP consideration.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Dan Uggla ($13 million): .182, 8 HR, 16 RBI, .676 OPS

    B.J. Upton ($12.45 million): .155, 4 HR, 7 RBI, .509 OPS

    Brian McCann ($12 million): .282 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI, .973 OPS

3. Cincinnati Reds

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    While the St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are quickly proving that there is at least one other team that is nearly just as good.

    Off to a 29-18 start, the Reds are two games ahead of the pace that saw them win 97 games in 2012. Their team payroll is $19 million higher this year, but it's clear they're getting solid value to this point.

    The Reds' key acquisition of the offseason, Shin-Soo Choo, has given everything the team has asked for and more in the leadoff spot. With a .300 average, nine home runs and 19 RBI, Choo is a far sight better than what the top spot of the batting order delivered last year.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    10 16 3 12 7 3 9 13

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Joey Votto ($17 million): .358, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 1.030 OPS

    Bronson Arroyo ($11.5 million): 4-4, 3.28 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 5.4 K/9

    Brandon Phillips ($10 million): .284, 7 HR, 40 RBI, .795 OPS

2. St. Louis Cardinals

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    With a 30-16 record, the St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in the majors.

    Even though the starting rotation has been hit with a season-ending injury to Jaime Garcia and right elbow pain for Jake Westbrook, replacements like Tyler Lyons have stepped in and delivered.

    The once-beleaguered bullpen has been stabilized, specifically by closer Edward Mujica.

    The Cardinals offense is getting it done as well—third in the National League in runs scored, second in batting average and the third-fewest strikeouts.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    17 21 1 5 15 1 10 11

    Ten teams have payrolls higher than that of the Cardinals, yet they're on top with almost a third of the season now complete.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Matt Holliday ($17 million): .270 BA, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .787 OPS

    Yadier Molina ($14 million): .333 BA, 2 HR, 21 RBI, .803 OPS

    Carlos Beltran ($13 million): .305, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .856 OPS

1. Texas Rangers

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    Despite the fact that Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli left town, the Texas Rangers weren't about to cry in their beer.

    Instead, they are on top of the American League with a 30-17 record—a full 5.5 games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

    This year, the pitching is leading the way. With a 3.48 ERA, the Rangers rank first in the American League. Their offense has held its own as well, just 21 runs behind the front-running Detroit Tigers.

    OPS SLG ERA P WAR O WAR W-L AVG. PAYROLL
    2 2 8 2 9 2 4 8

    The Rangers have gotten outstanding contributions from Mitch Moreland, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers. Not bad for a trio making a combined $1.5 million.

     

    Performance of Highest-Paid Players

    Adrian Beltre ($16 million): .281 BA, 10 HR, 29 RBI, .831 OPS

    Ian Kinsler ($13 million): .302 BA, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .869 OPS

    Nelson Cruz ($10.5 million): .249 BA, 11 HR, 33 RBI, .778 OPS

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

    Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.