Complaining about team management is a pastime as old as fandom itself. Some teams, however, cause more complaints than others, the Rockies most certainly being one of them. Complaining about trades and signings is commonplace everywhere, but it seems that of late the cries of cheap ownership (#LOLCHEAPFARTZ) have been louder than ever. Some concerns, like using money designated solely for stadium upgrades to fix the stadium, are unfounded, but I decided to attempt to see if the Monforts were cheap the best way I knew how: statistically.
I attempted to go about this via creating a model to predict payroll, and comparing the Rockies actual payroll to what the model predicts. Using average payrolls from 2012-2014 (the last three years), I determined each team's average annual payroll. Then, to set up a payroll model, I needed to determine what factors were relevant in predicting payroll. I tested Metro Area Population (2013 estimates from 2010 census), Population of the region surrounding the team (estimated using Facebook like maps, MLB Blackout regions, and distance from stadiums), Winning Percentage (Dating back to two years before and the year of), and Stadium Attendance. The only two factors I determined to be statistically relevant in predicting payroll (via r-squared values) were Metro Pop. and Stadium Attendance.
With this knowledge I created (well, excel created) a formula for predicting payroll. The rounded formula was:
Payroll=3,111.5*Average Home Game Attendance+2.17*Metro Population
On average this formula predicted a payroll 1 million over actual payroll (an average of 106 million instead of 105 million). Using this formula I calculated a predicted payroll for each team and compared it to actual payroll. I then found the difference between the two. For this study, the Owners that had the largest difference between predicted and actual payroll were the cheapest. Here is the chart (Cheapest Owners at the top):
The results are disheartening for even the most optimistic of Rockies fans. The Rockies actual payroll falls nearly 30 million short of their expected payroll, at 81 million as opposed to their projected 111. The Rockies rank as the fourth thriftiest team in baseball by this measure, losing to only the Mets (who don't have the support of their full Metro Area and have an owner with huge financial issues), Astros, and Cubs, (both rebuilding teams). By this measurement the Rockies are even thriftier than Jeffrey Loria (in this three year span).
However, it's not all doom and gloom in Colorado. This was a three year stretch in which the team had a poor record, and it's likely if 2010 and 2011 payrolls were included the Monforts wouldn't fair so poorly. Additionally, teams perceived to be well run such as the Cardinals, Rangers, and Braves all appear towards the cheaper end of this list. However, our placement towards the very bottom of this list is most certainly cause for genuine concern.
At the end of the day, we fared worse then I would've guessed. However, this is one (flawed) metric exploring an immensely complicated topic. This analysis mainly serves to lend credence to our fears, and add a different perspective to the litany of seemingly foundation-less complaints thrown at the Monforts these days. But if this study was solely conducted to answer the question "Are the Monforts Cheap?" the answer has to be yes.