One old baseball adage states, "Speed slows down the game," a quote likely coming from Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra.
On the surface, this statement makes no sense. But when you dig deeper, you gauge that when fast players get on base, the entire game changes. From throwing over to first base, to the pitcher stepping off the rubber, a once crisp moving game can get stalled as the pitcher and defense worries about the speedy runner.
Funny thing is that the runner by himself can't hurt the pitcher, unless he steals second, third and home. Only the hitter holding the bat can hurt the pitcher. But the runner does take the pitchers full concentration off the hitter, causing more fastballs to be thrown, often causing a big fat pitch over the middle of the plate.
Just by getting on base, the speedster affects the next couple hitters.
Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees had many of his best seasons hitting two batters behind Rickey Henderson.
However, speedsters affect the game in many other ways, including stolen bases, tracking down long outfield drives and turning possible extra base hits into big play (and game changing) outs.
This list includes Major League Baseball's top 15 fastest burners; all known for their stolen bases, great defense and ability to score from first base on a hard hit double.
It is an aspect of the game "you can't teach" and is top heavy with centerfielders, many of whom are young players of recent major league status. One of the reasons these guys are now major leaguers is that now with implementing consistent drug testing, baseball has transformed itself again into a speed game.