Who Supplied the Speed?

For today I just wanted to conduct a quick little exercise regarding stolen bases. So I looked at the top 20 finishers in the NFBC Main Event and tabulated all the players they got at least 10+ stolen bases from and then figured out how often each player showed up. As we turn our attention to 2020, I’m finding what I believe is too heavy of a focus on speed to the point of pushing down otherwise excellent players simply because they don’t run.

I understand the value of someone who does it all, but I’m not bypassing the brilliant contributions of someone like Nolan Arenado just because he nabs 2-3 SBs a year. There’s always a balance, right? You can’t completely ignore speed, but with premium SB contributors dwindling, you also don’t need as many at the draft table. At any rate, let’s get into it and see how it panned out.

The winner, Abdul Madani, was actually in my league. That and that alone is why I finished 13th… yeah, that’s why… are we buying that? Anybody? Jokes aside, Madani put together a fantastic season and actually ran away with the title a bit, winning by 269 nice points. He finished 4th among the 570 teams in stolen bases thanks to a pair of superstar speedsters: Jonathan Villar (40 SB) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (37).

Those two alone were good for 45% of his 170 SBs while Cody Bellinger (15) and Danny Santana (11) were his only other double-digit contributors. Just knowing that three of his drafted players were Acuña, Bellinger, and Villar helps you understand how he dominated this year. By the way, I’m listing how many of the SBs the team in question got as opposed to how many the player had for the year. Santana swiped 21, but Madani missed 10 of them.

The top 20 teams averaged 407 roto points in SBs thanks to an average of 124 actual stolen bases. All but one reached 100 with 17th-place finished Michael Mager nabbing 91. Madani’s 170 paced the group and well beyond KC Cha (147) and Doug Cassidy (140) who finished 2nd and 3rd. While you simply cannot punt a category in an overall contest, SBs are still the one you can lag the most in and remain competitive.

Mager’s 128.5 roto points in the category is far and away the lowest total that any of the top 20 teams had in the five hitting categories (which are the standards: R, HR, RBI, SB, and AVG). Stephen Jupinka and Mark Srebro tying at 199 in SBs are the only other two instances below 200. Beyond that, just four teams ranging from 224 to 315 roto points in AVG are the only other instances of these top 20 clubs registering fewer than 385 points in an offensive category. Again, this isn’t terribly surprising, but I mention it just to reaffirm how much a team needs strength and balance to compete in an overall contest with 570 teams.

Let’s get into the actual players and where they came from for these clubs. They averaged 4.3 players per team with 10+ SBs, ranging from seven (10th-place team) to two (19th-place team). Only six of the 20 teams had more than one guy who gave them 20+ SBs and only Madani had a pair over 30. There were 37 individual players who contributed: 13 of them were on just one team, 10 were on two teams, eight were on three teams, five were on four teams, and one was on EIGHT teams. Guess who appeared on eight teams? He was a second half waiver pickup, that’s your only hint.


Do you have your wrong guess locked and loaded?

He stole 16 of his 17 bases from August 3rd on.

OK, I guess that was a second hint.

I think four of you guessed this correctly (out of the 2.9 million people who read my stuff……)

It’s Jon Berti!!

The 29-year old utilityman averaged 12 SBs for those eight teams, ranging from 10 to 14 meaning he was picked up at some point in August (10, 12, 12, 12, 12, 12, 13, 14). He also scored runs at a tremendous clip down the stretch (full season pace of 126 starting on August 3rd).

Here is the rest of the players along with their contribution to the teams and Main Event ADP (unless they were FA pickups). Some of the guys with ADPs might’ve been pickups for our teams in question here, but I didn’t scrub through things to figure that.





I’m not sure there are grand takeaways as opposed to just an examination of where teams got their stolen bases. As you can see from ADPs, they come from all over. The grand prize winner happened to have two major base stealers early in his draft with Acuña and Villar, but I’m not sure you can just replicate that and expect to be in the mix for the 2020 top prize. He also hit on the Bellinger, Rafael Devers, and Eduardo Escobar breakouts. His top three arms were elite, too: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Luis Castillo.

I do think speed is being a bit overrated early in the 2020 research and I think these top 20 teams from the Main Event showed that there are multiple ways to earn your steals, whether you get some studs out front, one stud leading a group of other contributors, or a deep group of knick-knack contributors (10-15 apiece). What do you think? How are you planning to approach speed in 2020? Are you pushing the better speed up your board just for the steals or are you still taking the best players and taking the speed as it comes?

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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I know it’s unwise to draft speed early when the consensus stats show that a more all-around player is a better choice, but I can’t imagine trying to win a league starting some of those guys above just for the bases. Wil Myers, Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields, and even Jean Segura weren’t much assistance for the season apart from those bases. Even sticking in Kevin Pillar and Dee Gordon were really hohum outside of the thefts involved.

Yes, if one can be like Abdul and nab Villar, Acuna and Bellinger then everything will work out great. However, unless one reaches for those 4-5 category guys it’ll be a tough going to get the support pieces that are worth starting throughout the year just to get 10-15 bases without hurting other things. Perhaps the winners knew that starting sub-par players just for the bases was a necessity and were willing to counteract the other poor stats with more superior players. I mean, that’s the only way I can think of starting Billy Hamilton.

Waiver wire 10+ bases, by the way, only constitute four entries above. That just screams for the necessity of drafting speed early if only just for that one main burner. But of course, if one is comfortable starting all of Myers, Hamilton, DeShields…