And more than half of all series, 53%, were won by the teams with the lower payrolls. More than half.
In many of these cases the teams were within reach of each other. But at other times they weren't. Think of 2003, when the $49 million Florida Marlins beat the $83 million Giants, the $80 million Cubs and the $153 million Yankees to win the title.
Or just this month, when the $62 million Cleveland Indians beat a Yankees team with a payroll three times bigger, before taking the $143 million Red Sox team to seven games. Meanwhile, the $53 million Diamondbacks beat a Cubs team with twice its payroll, while the $54 million Rockies were beating the $89 million Phillies.
In 2006 the $83 million Tigers made it to the World Series by beating the $195 million Yankees. The year before, the $98 million Angels knocked out the $208 million Yankees while the $75 million White Sox knocked out the $124 million Red Sox.
Back in 2002, the Angels had half the payroll of the $126 million Yankees but beat them anyway, while the $75 million Cardinals beat the $103 million Diamondbacks. In the previous year the Yankees had outspent the Oakland A's by an incredible $112 million to $34 million, or more than three to one, but only edged past them 3 to 2 in the division series.