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Teams take page from 'Moneyball' into playoffs

Baseball playoffs show rich teams don't always win

For baseball fans, it's the most wonderful time of the year, at least if your team has somehow managed to stay in the "Hunt for October." The playoffs are already underway, and eight lucky (and skilled) teams have made it into the chase for a World Series title.

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There are some perennial championship contenders, but for the most part, the size of a player's salary, or a team's payroll didn't have a lot to do with a team's entry into the postseason.

The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, LA Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays are all in the battle.

Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees $29M
Cliff Lee Philadelphia Phillies $25M
Johan Santana New York Mets $24.6M
Vernon Wells New York Yankees $24.6M
CC Sabathia New York Yankees $24.2M
Mark Teixeira New York Yankees $23.1M
Prince Fielder Detroit Tigers $23M
Joe Mauer Minnesota Twins $23M
Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants $22.2M
Adrian Gonzalez Los Angeles Dodgers $21.8M

Two of these teams managed to make it to postseason play with some of the lowest team salaries in the majors. Those who are familiar with Michael Lewis' 2003 book and the 2011 movie "Moneyball" probably aren't surprised that the Oakland A's are in the playoffs. Lewis' book went into great depth about General Manager Billy Beane's use of statistical based analysis to construct winning teams. Oakland managed to make it into this year's playoffs with a combined team salary of just $60 million, which ranks them No. 27 out of 30 teams.

Tampa Bay spent even less than that to make it to the postseason. With a combined salary this year of just $57 million, the Rays rank No. 28.

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Compare that with the $220 million that the Los Angeles Dodgers spent on team salaries this year. Detroit ranks fourth in the league with an estimated $148 million payroll, and the Boston Red Sox were fifth at $140 million.

The other five teams have considerably less in estimated payroll.

Perhaps even more sobering is the view from New York Yankees fans, who watched in disappointment as a $203 million payroll landed them out of the postseason picture.

The 'Moneyball' misplay?

The story gets more interesting when you look at how many of the game's top-paid individual players are or aren't playing in the postseason, most notably, the Yankees, who have four of the 10 highest-paid players. Alex Rodriguez ranked No. 1 and had a $29 million salary this year. Vernon Wells was tied for third and had about $24.6 million in pay. Pitcher CC Sabathia ranked fifth at $24.2 million. Mark Teixeira took home $23.1 million and ranked sixth.

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Of the 10 highest-paid players, only two are playing in the postseason: Prince Fielder of the Tigers (ranked seventh at $23 million) and the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez (10th at $21.8 million).

Investors are often looking for the great value play, and getting the most return for their capital. In baseball terms, that's what teams like the A's, Rays and Pirates are. Their front offices and management put together outperforming teams for less than expected investments.

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So, if you're a true value investor, maybe there's a chance you set aside your true team allegiances and cheer for the squads most like you style of investing.

By CNBC's Dominic Chu. Follow him on Twitter @TheDomino