During the NBA season this year, I wrote up some parameters for an alternative way to build an NBA winner: The Seattle Scientists. The idea behind the Scientists is the same old Moneyball methodology for small market teams — find the undervalued assets and spend your money there. In the NBA, my buddy Tony and I think effort, defense, and intelligence are the assets to focus on. In the the MLB, there are some related options: bunting, speed, and defense again. We settled on the Portland Peskies for this thought experiment (an over-educated city that would appreciate a non-traditional team), though the Indianapolis Institute and the Las Vegas Vig (“You can never beat the house!”) were also in the running.
It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this while my Tigers play their old nemesis the Twins. The Tigers (outside of Quintin Berry this year) never have any hitters that would fit the Pesky mold. But Twins outfielder Ben Revere (currently snagging a tailing line drive off his shoe tops) would be on the Peskies’ radar for sure, as would Alexi Casilla and Denard Span. Revere has 6 bunt singles this year on 13 tries and 16 steals in 20 attempts. The Twins wanted him to bunt more in 2012, and he probably should bunt even more. He only has 8 extra base hits this year (zero home runs), so there’s no big upside to swinging away. League-wide, bunters have reached 40% of the time this year — before accounting for errors! On the Peskies, guys like Revere and Berry (6 for 12 on bunts and 12 for 12 on steals) would bunt much more.
Teams traveling to Portland would agonize about how to defend the Peskies, who would be playing an entirely different — more athletic — sport. To make up for home run excitement, after every strong defensive play or infield single, the PA announcer would call, “YOU GOTTA,” followed by the fans’ response, “EARN YOUR HITS!!” It would be different, it would be fun, and it could work in a small market.
Pitching creates a challenge for the Peskies, of course. That’s the one area where they would invest. However, there’s still room for outside the box thinking. Rather than spending money on good pitchers (never on a “closer,” of course), the Peskies could buy up retired knuckleballers to teach “bad” pitchers in a minor league Knuckle Academy. With time, they might not need pitchers at all — the position players could learn to throw the knuckler.
The Peskies might not work, but why doesn’t Oakland or Minnesota give it a shot? Sorry guys, the old Moneyball days are over.