Schwartz: The big bang, fantasy baseball’s evolution

From SABR member Cory Schwartz at on March 28, 2015:

Imagine a world without mobile devices that display scores, stats and even live play-by-play updates. Imagine a world without the sophisticated data and analytics to evaluate fantasy baseball trades, which can be executed on those same devices.

Heck, imagine a world without fantasy baseball.

That was a reality prior to Opening Day 1980, the year of the first Rotisserie League, which spawned the hobby played by millions today.

In devising the first set of rules in November 1979, Daniel Okrent unwittingly pioneered a worldwide phenomenon. Despite the many changes during the 35 years since, fantasy baseball maintains much of the tradition that cemented its popularity in the first place, just like the on-field game it mimics. Okrent’s original 4×4 scoring format featured seven categories — batting average, homers, RBIs and steals for hitters; wins, ERA and saves for pitchers — that were easy to find in newspapers’ box scores. The fourth pitching category was called IPRAT, a metric of his own creation now known as WHIP.

The addition of runs for hitters and strikeouts for pitchers resulted in the creation of 5×5, the most popular scoring format today. Many modern leagues, however, use customized categories and scoring formats that would have been completely foreign to Okrent.

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Originally published: March 30, 2015. Last Updated: March 30, 2015.