For the payroll isn't a significant factor here's the data. You can draw your own conclusions.
My conclusion is you don't know what you're talking about.
Seriously, you're an Engineer.
Here's the thread Chris posted in August on Payroll Correlation. You commented in it. I made comments and nobody bothers to respond. Then we do this again months later.
We've talked about this specific thing before also. I can go find it if I need to but the bottom line (similar to my comment in the link) is that you have teams trying and teams not trying. Teams that don't try intentionally aren't spending money. Teams that are trying are typically spending money. There are teams that are trying and competing on a lesser payroll.
A good portion of he bottom teams (Divisions) in both the AL and NL in recent years haven't been competing so you are clearly (and very intentionally) going to have a gross bias in a Payroll to Division Winners assessment.
Why would you bias the data in that way? Let's consider the NL East this year or last year....you have 4 teams that are all competing and one that has already quit. The Marlins were (and are this year) trying to finish 5th; they aren't a data point.
The Braves finished first (160M), the Nationals 2nd (201M), the Mets 3rd (186M) and the Phillies 4th (192M)....do you really want to try and get some payroll vs winning correlation out of that? All 4 teams are making moves to compete in 2020...would you use payroll to order their finish this year or would you rather do a more relevant assessment? You think the Braves care they'll spend less than the other 3?
The Rays, Jays and Os were among the bottom 5 or 6 teams. They Rays were trying and finished 2nd. They Jays and Os weren't trying and finished a predictable 4th and 5th.
The Red Sox and Cubs were #1 and #2 in payroll and both finished 3rd in their Division (with only the non-data point behind them) and out of the playoffs.
There's been much more parity in MLB than in the other sports (in terms of making the playoffs) and there's no Salary Caps in Baseball, more revenue disparity (local versus national) and the last 8+ years you've had the biased data of teams intentionally tanking (more in MLB than NBA and NFL although it exists there too).
Neither the collective data or the anecdotal data supports your position.
Winning is more than spending. (I mean, how many teams would love to dump 10s of millions off their payroll for nothing?)
Where ken is correct is that money provides you more avenues to work to get better. That's true and that's fine. Small market teams have smaller error margins when it comes to spending. Fixing that would help spending across the sport (that's my GSP and TSF plan).