LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After a month of near-daily meetings with content managers and software engineers, Yahoo! has reached a decision on how it will handle the arrival of Shohei Ohtani.
There will be two of him.
If you’re in a Yahoo! league and you want to accrue Ohtani’s hitting and pitching stats, you’re going to have to draft him twice, once as a pitcher and then again as a hitter. There were a number of potential solutions that Yahoo! discussed but ultimately, Yahoo! product director Guy Lake said, this decision combined the best of both worlds when it came to functionality and playability.
“We knew this was coming,” Lake said, “so we had to come to a position about it.”
The new rule will also cover any further two-way players, like Rays prospect Brendan McKay, who make it to the major leagues.
Before deciding on the two-Ohtani solution, Yahoo! batted around a number of ideas about how to handle the sport’s most intriguing star in the past several decades. One solution involved giving Ohtani eligibility as both a hitter and a pitcher, with the ability to toggle back and forth. The catch there was that Ohtani would never be able to accumulate stats on both sides of the ball simultaneously.
If a user had Ohtani slotted in as a pitcher that day and he hit two home runs, it wouldn’t matter. The only stats relevant that day for that user would be whatever Ohtani did on the mound.
That particular option was popular among the gathered decision-makers.
“There were a handful of exceptions in a room full of 20 people talking about this who were against this from a user-experience standpoint,” Lake said, “but I would say 15 or 16 people in the room were in favor of it, as was I. Why? Because it’s freaking cool. It’s cool to be able to take your starting pitcher one day, and then—maybe not the next day, but the following day—you can slot him into your utility spot, or maybe outfield. That’s just an exceptionally cool thing.”
Another option, which gained little traction, was to simply leave him as a pitcher or a hitter and discount his other stats entirely. This answer, of course, sucks all of the intrigue out of Ohtani and neutralizes what could wind up being a significant amount of his value from a fantasy and real-life standpoint.
That would have made the lives of Yahoo!’s engineers much easier, but it would have been a decidedly uninspired way to handle things.
“You simply pick a position, assign it to him and then take the stats that he accumulates at that position and you’re done,” Lake said. “But we thought that would be a huge cop-out for our users and a cop-out for us as players. That was immediately thrown out. It wasn’t an option.”
Then there was the choice they arrived at: The two-Ohtani solution, which has also been discussed by ESPN as its answer to the Ohtani quandary. And even though it’s the solution Yahoo! settled upon, they also realize that it’s not by any means perfect. It does offer a relatively easy solution for the company’s engineers—they simply clone Ohtani’s player ID and then change his position.
It also helps Ohtani owners avoid the decision of how to deploy him on a daily basis. If they use him as a starting pitcher and he gets bombed but hits a pair of home runs in the same game, then those owners are going to feel rightly disappointed that they only got his pitching stats for that day.
“That’s the best gloss I can put on it,” Lake said. “I would love it if we could say ‘No problem’ (and encompass all of Ohtani’s value into one draftable player). If it were easy, there would be one. Let’s be clear about that: It’s not easy, but we’ve come up with what we think is the best from a set of imperfect choices.”