Beyond the Box Score's JinAZ takes another look at the massive disparity between the leagues in recent seasons, and lists five explanations. After dispatching the first three with ease, Justin wins the kewpie doll with Nos. 4 and 5 ...
- 4. AL teams are spending more on amateur talent and international free agents, and thus have better talent.
Matt Swartz had a nice piece on this a few weeks ago at BPro. He found that it was actually the non-market player spending (amateurs and free agents) that differed more between the two leagues, rather than free agent spending. The biggest extra spenders were in the AL East and AL Central. We often do see AL teams paying over slot bonuses (the Tigers and Yankees come to mind), and may be helping them acquire a talent advantage. This is the first I'd seen on this, but I think it could be a big part of the explanation.
It's always been my contention that the American League's huge superiority has been due to money and intelligence: bigger payrolls and smarter front offices. But according to JinAZ, if you remove the Yankees from the equation there's essentially no payroll difference between the leagues. He does suggest (Explanation No. 5) that American League front offices make better decisions than their National League cousins (and by the way, this is a difficult thing to quantify but certainly could be done).
I missed Matt Swartz's piece the first time around, but now I've read it and he makes a compelling case. Of course, spending money on draft picks is an efficient use of resources ... which just gets us back to smarter front offices, right?