These strategies apply specifically to Head-to-Head leagues. For strategies on Rotisserie leagues, auction leagues, and draft leagues, check out the strategy guides for each either already posted on the site or set to appear in the coming days.
Some of last season's statistics you know by heart: the home runs, batting averages and stolen bases, for instance. They define a player on the back of his baseball card, and for all those years when only Rotisserie play existed, they defined him in terms of Fantasy value.
But in Head-to-Head leagues, they don't tell the whole story. They tell only a portion, blending with the lesser-known stats, the ones nobody remembers or cares to look up, to form one composite score that determines wins and losses. In the end, the home runs don't have any greater significance than the doubles and triples or the walks and strikeouts.
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So if those peripheral stats matter just as much as the big ones, shouldn't you care about them? Couldn't they conceivably make all the difference?
Obviously, they don't matter exactly as much as the big ones. Any Head-to-Head league halfway worth its salt would award more points for a home run than a double, but the fact it rewards a double at all gives it a unique spin from Rotisserie play that often goes overlooked.
And when something goes overlooked, you can usually use it to your advantage.
Winning on peripherals, I call it. No, you won't blow away your opponent with a squadron of doubles-only nobodies. After all, the usual suspects tend to lead the league in doubles -- and every statistic, for that matter. But by combining those lesser contributions -- the doubles, triples, strikeouts and walks -- and seeing how they work together to produce a player's final score, you'll occasionally unearth players who gain significant value -- such as Brian Roberts, Johnny Damon and Brian Giles -- and players who lose significant value -- looking at you, Ryan Howard.
If that process sounds complicated to you, relax. You already have a built-in mechanism for combining stats simply by playing in a Head-to-Head league. Head-to-Head play offers something Rotisserie, no matter how many complex formulas or "player raters" Fantasy websites develop, never can: a single number that tells you exactly how good a player is -- or, more accurately, was. You need only look at how many Fantasy points he scored last year. Go to your league's stats page, sort by Fantasy points, pick out the players that seem abnormally high or abnormally low, and go from there.
|If your H2H league penalizes strikeouts, drop Ryan Howard down your rank lists. (US Presswire)|
I want to emphasize that part about your league's scoring structure. You need to know it. Don't just assume you use a standard system, because one small tweak can turn a player's value upside-down. Some leagues penalize hitters for striking out; others don't. Some leagues reward two points for a stolen base; others reward one. In some leagues, Howard might still rank second among first basemen. In others, he might drop to 10th or 11th. Review your league's scoring structure well before Draft Day, and if in your calculations, you find a player's scoring average that seems out of whack, try to figure out why. Maybe you'll catch a subtle scoring tweak you can use to your advantage.
Everyone has an itching for pitching
Some Fantasy owners hold steadfast to the belief that pitching trumps hitting in Head-to-Head leagues, bucking the conventional wisdom of Rotisserie play, which says just the opposite. So when you see your opponents scooping up starting pitchers left and right during the first few rounds of a Head-to-Head draft, don't be surprised, but don't follow suit either.
The argument just doesn't hold water. True, you can survive with a makeshift rotation better in a Rotisserie league than a Head-to-Head league, where wins and innings often have greater statistical significance, but that subtle difference shouldn't rock the foundation of longstanding Fantasy ideology.
I think the misconception stems from a recurring snap judgment that even responsible -- yes, responsible -- Fantasy owners seem to make. They look at the numbers -- a habit I fully endorse -- and see that pitchers typically score more than hitters. I'll admit it: They do. They outscore hitters. But quarterbacks typically outscore running backs in Fantasy Football, and you won't find anyone telling you to pick them instead.
And you know full well why. The position as a whole outscores the other positions, meaning the 10th starting pitcher outscores the 10th second baseman just like the first starting pitcher outscores the first second baseman. But you'll notice the 10th starting pitcher outscores the 10th second baseman by more than the first starting pitcher outscores the first second baseman, demonstrating a lack of elasticity at the position. The scoring output declines faster at second base, meaning you don't lose as much by taking a lesser pitcher as you do by taking a lesser second baseman.
You might worry that if you don't draft a pitcher early, you'll lose your chance to get a bona-fide ace. But you shouldn't think of it as losing an ace so much as gaining a stud at another position. You'll still get an ace, just a lesser one, and your opponent will have a much harder time finding a suitable option at whatever position you took instead. Just because someone drafts a pitcher early doesn't mean he gets to play that pitcher at shortstop instead, which I realize sounds like a ridiculously fundamental idea, but my point is you shouldn't judge how a position stacks up against another position as much as how a position stacks up against itself. Don't think of it so much as your opponent getting 582 points from Tim Lincecum compared to your 563.5 points from Jimmy Rollins. Think of it more as him getting 582 points from Lincecum and 426.5 from Miguel Tejada compared to your 563.5 points from Rollins and 461 points from Chad Billingsley. Who wins? Quite honestly, who wins?
To get an idea of how far this pitchers-first mentality has spun out of control, take a look at our earliest Head-to-Head mock draft.
I didn't take my first pitcher until Round 6. By then, most every other team had two or three. Might I have considered taking one earlier? Sure, but not when I had the opportunity to reel in this catch during Rounds 1-4: David Wright, Grady Sizemore, Rollins and Ian Kinsler.
Notice the common thread between those players? That's right: All four could potentially go in the first round of any draft.
Nobody should ever open a season with four first-round draft picks. You might get two if you pick in the right spot, maybe three if you play with a complete novice on some misguided mission to reassemble the 2003 New York Yankees. But four? That should never, ever happen.
But it did -- and in a league of professionals, no less. And I don't mean to suggest they don't know what they're doing, because they obviously do. I just want you to understand how easily you can get swept away in a grab-fest for frontline starting pitching.
I also don't mean to suggest if some clear-cut ace like Roy Halladay falls to you in the third or fourth round, you shouldn't even consider taking him, but don't get so caught up in an ill-advised pitching run that you overlook a stud the rest of the league has hand delivered to you.
Of course, that idea applies specifically to Head-to-Head leagues. I can think of some even more important reasons to target hitters over pitchers, and if you'd like to read about them, check out my separate column on pitching philosophies.
Double fresh, double good, come on and double it ...
In Rotisserie play, you constantly have to worry about ratios and percentages. A negative performance could do so much damage that it overrides a positive one, meaning you don't necessarily want to start the player with the most games on his upcoming schedule. For example, a starting pitcher could throw a five-hit shutout in one game, get rocked the next, and post a less-than-impressive 1.40 WHIP for the week, making you wish he made only the one start instead of two.
But in Head-to-Head leagues, only totals matter, and you want as many as you can get. For the easiest way to give your team more opportunities to accumulate totals, look no further than your starting rotation. Since major-league teams play six or seven games each week and have five-man starting rotations, one or two pitchers on each team will make two starts in any given week. The more starting pitchers you have on your roster, the more you'll have making two starts each week.
Obviously, you can take this approach too far. If you find yourself debating between a one-start Dan Haren and a two-start Mike Hampton, for instance, you know you've gone totally off the deep end. But to a certain extent, quantity trumps quality for starting pitchers in Head-to-Head leagues. Make sure you have plenty on your bench to switch in and out of your starting lineup.
The bench is no place for backups
Of course, in order to have more starting pitchers on your bench, you can't have as many position players, which tells you two things.
One, you shouldn't worry so much about drafting a backup player for every position across the diamond. You can still have some backups, certainly. You might want a fourth outfielder, for instance, and maybe a slugging corner infielder who fell to you in the middle rounds. Mostly, you just want to avoid clogging your roster with reserves who barely deserve roster spots and would likely go unclaimed if you released them. Because if you have one who'd just sit on waivers, waiting for you to claim him again, why not release him and use that bench slot on something you can actually use, like another pitcher?
Two, if you can't afford to use your bench slots on position players, you better make sure you have a reliable starting lineup going into the season. Hmm ... sounds like another reason to favor hitters over pitchers in the early rounds, doesn't it?
I never get tired of that same old song and verse.
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