Historical Fantasy Prices

Chris Liss has a history of trying to calculate historical fantasy prices. He recounts that history in a post at Rotowire that is well worth reading.

His post reminded me of my first post as a short-lived Baseball Prospectus writer back in 1999. I wrote a long impassioned screed hating on ESPN, my former employer, for totally misunderstanding the fantasy game and the informational needs of us players. BP Bowdlerized it, probably for my own good, but frustratingly. They left the results of my data driven look into baseball history intact.

What I did was calculate roto values, in league context, for every year in baseball from 1903. The results are interesting because of the way they demonstrate Stephen Jay Gould’s point about the way that a limited sample increases the relative achievement of the elite. The point, I think, is that in a small league with limited talent, the best players dominate in ways that can’t happen when the game is more universal and talent is more widely distributed.

(The results are far more useful in post WWII era, when the player population has stabilized, gradually. Those year-to-year numbers became the basis of the Magic Grid I started using back then to find comparable seasons in order to assess likeliness of performance (earnings) for different types of players based on their histories.)

What would it be like to play roto in 1915? My values win, hands down. That’s what they calculate. But Chris measures something else that has its own value.