Sports Salaries Part 2, Positions and Players

Author’s Note: This article was originally published with a major data error, skewing salaries in favor of NBA positions. It has been corrected, and should now accurately reflect position comparisons across these leagues.

In December 2017, when checking this site’s stats, I saw I was getting hits from a podcast website (District Trivia). After listening to the episode, reading this article again, and checking the data, I realized there was a significant mistake in these graphs. NBA positions appeared to be the highest yearly salaries, but some of the lower salaried players did not have a position listed! Many lower salaried players were lumped into a “blank” category, which skewed the other positions significantly upward. I was sad to see that, because I was excited to see my data crunching was used as a reference by someone.

To correct the data, I manually went through the NBA section and updated player positions based on ESPN and Wikipedia rosters from 2016-2017. I also double-checked to make sure the other sports had positions listed properly. The current graphs shown below should now be accurate. I have also reached out to the podcast hosts to let them know about my mistake. My apologies to any readers, I definitely should have caught that before publishing.

Previously, wrote about salary data across the four major U.S. sports; NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. In that first article, I explored the player salary totals, salary averages, per games averages, and per minute averages for each league and teams. I also discussed a bit on the methodology I used to calculate these amounts, which I recommend reading if you want to hear what caused me to look at this, where I got the data, and how I processed it. In this article, we’re going to look at the salary data for each individual player and by position.

For background, here’s the first post on this topic:

We’ll start with some charts, because visual representations are sometimes easier to interpret than data tables. These bar graphs group positions by their respective leagues, and are all in reference to salary data from the 2016-2017 season in each sport. We start with per season salary, then break it down per game, then per minute.

Avg Salary Per Season by Position

Table 1. Average player salary per season for each position, grouped by league.

Avg Salary Per Game by Position

Table 2. Average player salary per game for each position, grouped by league.

Avg Salary Per Minute by Position

Table 3. Average player salary per minute for each position, grouped by league.

And here are the corresponding data tables for the above graphs. Yearly salaries seem to lean heavily in favor of the NBA and MLB, but once you start looking at per game and per minute rankings, several NFL positions join the party. In particular, per minute it pays to be an NFL QB, LB, and DE! In the MLB, DH and P both pay fairly well per minute too.

Data Table Position Salaries

Table 4. Data for player positions (salary per season, per game, and per minute).

Next, I’ll include some data for individual players. It’s a little less interesting to me than the positional data. The big takeaway seems to be that, while the top yearly salaries are mostly NBA players, with some MLB players sprinkled in, the top per game/per minute earners are almost all NFL QBs.

Top 30 Player Salaries

Table 5. Individual player salaries per season, top 30 only.

Top 30 Per Minute Player Salaries

Table 6. Individual player per game and per minute salaries, sorted by most per minute, top 30 only.


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