Thinking About Thinking

Building the Fastest Team in Baseball

Posted in Uncategorized by larrycheng on May 17, 2009

Since the Celtics Game 7 finale with Orlando is too painful to actually pay attention to, I decided to answer one of the random questions floating around in my head (trying to pretend like I don’t care that the Celtics are losing badly).  The random question of the day is if I were the general manager of a low budget major league baseball team (think Florida Marlins), and simply decided to pull together the fastest, most cost efficient team in baseball – what would it look like, how much would it cost, would it be competitive?  In pulling together this dream team of speed, I decided to make all outfield positions interchangeable, and I made all infield positions interchangeable except catcher.  Here’s what the team would look like with their new positions and existing teams (# of 2008 stolen bases):

  1. Willy Taveras, CF, Reds (68)
  2. Jose Reyes, 1B, Mets (56)
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, LF, Red Sox (50)
  4. B.J. Upton, RF, Rays (44)
  5. Michael Bourn, DH, Astros (41)
  6. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (35)
  7. Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (33)
  8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (26)
  9. Ivan Rodriguez, C, Astros (10)

This team, based on 2008 statistics would steal 363 bases and average 40 steals per player.  Tell me that wouldn’t put fans in the seats?  Even the change-up in a few positions would make things more interesting.

Now how much would this team cost based on their 2009 salary?

  1. Willy Taveras, $2.25M
  2. Jose Reyes, $6.13M
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury, $0.45M
  4. Michael Bourn, $0.43M
  5. B.J. Upton, $0.43M
  6. Hanley Ramirez, $5.5M
  7. Chone Figgins, $5.8M
  8. Ian Kinsler $3.25M
  9. Ivan Rodriguez, $1.5M

This team would cost $25.74M for the starting 9 players and average a $2.86M annual salary per player (the average salary of the 9 highest paid players for the Florida Marlins this year is $2.85M).  You could recruit some track stars for $400k minimum to round out the team.

Of course, it’s somewhat unrealistic to think you could pull these players together on one team, get them to swap positions, etc.  But, nonetheless, this does make me think that speed/stolen bases is an undervalued capability in baseball.  If you tried to pull together a team with the best in baseball at any other statistic that represents productivity: HR’s, batting average, on base percentage, even walks, it’d be a much more costly team.  Not to mention, a team with this make-up would be pound for pound the most exciting team to watch in baseball.

Time to go root for an improbable Celtics comeback… (Update: which did not happen)

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  1. [...] Building the Fastest Team in Baseball « Thinking About Thinking [...]

  2. Tony Berkman said, on May 18, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I don’t think speed/SB in under-compensated. A couple thoughts:

    Michael Lewis made the compelling argument in Moneyball that you need to be succesful on >75% of steels to generate more runs for your team so at the margin, stolen bases don’t really add near the same value as home runs and should be valued accordingly.

    Unlike power, speed doesn’t take time to develop and thus you have many youngsters on your roster above. Kinsler, Reyes and Ramirez will likely be amongst the 10 highest played payers in the game in a couple of years and what’s more Kinsler and Ramirez have considerable power. Point being, the excercise would seem more interesting if you picked players that were more one-dimesnional and who could likely be signed today for their current salary if they were an FA (the Pierres of the world).

    • larrycheng said, on May 18, 2009 at 9:31 am

      Thanks for the comment Tony. I agree that there are some budding big names on the list who will be too expensive if we made this list a couple years from now. But, then I’d guess by then, those players could be replaced with other speed demons who are cheap. I think speed is that interesting quality that you’re right, doesn’t take time to develop. Which makes it all the more interesting that you can get speed players and speed productivity relatively less expensively since players can be effective with it right out of the minor leagues. I like your Lewis comment, I wonder what the stolen base percentage is for these folks. Anyways, just thinking about random stuff and thought I’d put pen to paper on it.

  3. [...] Mo­re­:  B­ui­ld­i­ng the Fas­tes­t Team­­ i­n B­as­eb… [...]

  4. Jacob said, on April 12, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Hi, amazing, this is good stuff, keep up the good work.Greetings


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