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Inside Fantasy Baseball at ESPN

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | March 19, 2015
What's more exciting to a baseball fan than the start of a new season? To many, it's the start of fantasy baseball season. Indeed, some might argue (and have) that fantasy baseball, where individuals manage hand-picked teams of MLB players and compete against others using player statistics to score points, has become more popular than Major League Baseball.

No one wants to sit down to watch a ballgame that night to find out that their starting pitcher was scratched six hours earlier and they had no idea. People want to be alerted about that.

And again, [I] don't want to overstate it but their ability to make changes and do anything they want on mobile. That's been our goal since the first day that we came out with our app six years ago is to be able to do everything you need to do without the aid of a desktop. What about predictive analytics? Has that played a role?

Waram: It certainly [has]. We've patented a bunch of the analytics that we've done. And our analytics are different than [some of] the other sports analytics. Ours is more around helping people draft better and understand what players in what position are better values. Maybe there are eight third basemen that are going to be really good this year, but there are only three first baseman.

We've got some guys who are particularly adept at looking at how leagues start and how they end and who's done a good job of drafting and making adjustments throughout the year and then trying to model some of that stuff. So has it become more technologically challenging to manage the site, or easier, over the years?

Waram: It's significantly more difficult now. Early on, around 2000, all we had to make sure of was, is our signup process correct? What is our live game experience going to look like? And is it going to work in IE4 and in Firefox ... and Safari?

Now when we build a game we have to account for apps on multiple operating systems. We have to account for multiple different tablets. How are we going to treat things on, say, a 10-inch screen and above, a 10-inch screen and below and connected TVs? How does it work on Xbox and Roku and [other] devices? It's much more complex than the earlier days. So are you a baseball fan? Do you actually play ESPN Fantasy Baseball?

Waram: Both. I grew up playing baseball. I am a baseball fan. [However,] it's debatable how good I am at Fantasy Baseball. Thank goodness the job here doesn't require me to be good at these games. Just to make sure that they work.


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