With "Moneyball" racking up about $20 million in box office revenue for its opening weekend, millions of people who would never watch an Oakland Athletics game have learned the importance of a baseball player's value. The main point to be taken from "Moneyball" is the same strategy at the car dealership: How can I get more for less?
Now, with the 2011 World Series underway, which players are giving their teams the most bang for the buck? With the help of InvestingAnswers.com, we looked at the three players from both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers who are helping the most and costing the (relative) least. Here are the best values in the Fall Classic:
1. Mike Napoli
This catcher and first baseman had a four-day stint with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Rangers for pitcher Frank Francisco. He's the highest-paid Ranger on this list, with a 2011 salary of $5,800,000. But compared to Michael Young, the team's highest-paid player with a contract worth $16,174,975, it doesn't look so bad. With an on-base percentage of .414, slugging percentage of .631, 30 home runs and 5.5 Wins Above Replacement (as measured by Baseball-Reference.com), he was certainly a multi-million dollar steal.
2. Derek Holland
One of the youngest players on the Texas roster, the 24-year old pitcher is third on the team in innings pitched with 198, and has 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings, good enough for fifth on the team. And he's done it all for the measly price of $431,810. Interestingly, Holland, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz have combined for 43 percent of the Rangers' innings and 40 percent of the team's strikeouts. But the four of them made a combined $1,747,950. That's less than two percent of the Rangers' $103 million payroll.
3. Nelson Cruz
The outfielder has had a great season with the Rangers. This year, Cruz and Ian Kinsler became the first teammates in major league history to homer in each of the first three games of the season. On Oct. 11 against the Detroit Tigers, Cruz became the first player ever to hit a walk-off grand slam in a post-season game. Cruz was also awarded the 2011 ALCS MVP award. His 2011 contract is worth $3,650,000. Put that next to 29 home runs, an on-base percentage of .312, slugging percentage of .509 and Cruz gives the Rangers several big bangs for their buck.
St. Louis Cardinals
1. Lance Berkman
No, this first baseman/outfielder isn't exactly cheap. But with a salary of $8 million (half the team's most expensive contract, Matt Holliday at $16,317,774), Berkman brings serious scoring power to the Cardinals. The Big Puma hit 31 homers this season and has an on-base percentage of .412 while slugging .547. That gives him the team's highest OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .959.
2. Jaime Garcia
This starting pitcher brings a lot of left-handed talent for very little green. As the No. 2 hurler, Garcia might only be in his third year with the Cardinals, but his stats look almost as good as those of ace Chris Carpenter. And with a salary of $437,000 compared to Carpenter's $14,259,403, Garcia is quite the value. This season, he had 156 strikeouts, second only to Carpenter's 191.
3. Allen Craig
In the big leagues only since 2010, utility player Allen Craig has hit 11 homers this season. With an on-base percentage of .362 and slugging average of .555, his OPS is actually slightly higher than that of Albert Pujols (though it's a much smaller sample size). In fact, at .917, it's the highest on the team behind Berkman. Craig's 2011 contract is worth $414,000 -- peanuts for a team that has gone so far in the playoffs.
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