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Heterogeneous Worker Ability and Team-Based Production: Evidence from Major League Baseball, 1920-2009


  • Bryson, Alex
  • Gomez, Rafael
  • Papps, Kerry L.


A detailed longitudinal dataset is assembled containing annual performance and biographical data for every player over the entire history of professional major league baseball. The data are then aggregated to the team level for the period 1920-2009 in order to test whether teams built on a more intermediate distribution of observed talent perform better than those teams with either too high or too low a mixture of highly able and less able players. The key dependent variable used in the regressions is the percentage of games a team wins each season. Our finding is that conditioning on average player ability, dispersion in team pitching and hitting talent prior to the start of a season is related in a non-linear way to subsequent team performance. This suggests that there is an optimum heterogeneity of ability at the team level that maximises joint output. This result is robust to the inclusion of team fixed effects as well as year dummies and after controlling for the potential endogeneity of skill dispersion. These findings have potentially important applications both inside and outside of the sporting world.

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  • Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael & Papps, Kerry L., 2011. "Heterogeneous Worker Ability and Team-Based Production: Evidence from Major League Baseball, 1920-2009," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2011-6, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 29 Mar 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:ubc:clssrn:clsrn_admin-2011-6

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    Cited by:

    1. Hoogendoorn, Sander M. & Parker, Simon C. & van Praag, Mirjam C., 2012. "Ability Dispersion and Team Performance: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 7044, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bryan, Mark & Bryson, Alex, 2016. "Has performance pay increased wage inequality in Britain?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 149-161.
    3. Gerlinde Fellner & Yoshio Iida & Sabine Kröger & Erika Seki, 2014. "The Relation between Information and Heterogeneous Ability in Joint Projects - An experimental Analysis -," Cahiers de recherche 1411, CIRPEE.
    4. Besters, Lucas, 2018. "Economics of professional football," Other publications TiSEM d9e6b9b7-a17b-4665-9cca-1, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    5. Swarnodeep Homroy & Kwok Tong Soo, 2014. "The impact of diversity on group and individual performance," Working Papers 65528509, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    6. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:1556-1578 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Sander Hoogendoorn & Simon C. Parker & Mirjam van Praag, 2014. "Ability Dispersion and Team Performance," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-053/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    8. Aurélie BONEIN, 2014. "Social Comparison and Peer effects with Heterogeneous Ability," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201411, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.

    More about this item


    Baseball; Inequality; Team-based Performance;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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