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2013 Draft Prep: Nando Di Fino's Head-to-Head strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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More Head-to-Head strategies: Scott White | Al Melchior

You may not like Head-to-Head (Points) leagues, but you're probably going to have to play in one at some point in your life. Or maybe you love Head-to-Head leagues, but you're always looking for new ways to improve your strategy (for instance, did you know that there's a way to set up leagues to play more than one team at a time?) Or maybe you just googled "Medlen squeezes Duchscherer Christmas dominoes" and landed here.

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Whatever the case may be, I hope two things are abundantly clear: 1. You are going to need to develop separate strategies when competing in Head-to-Head leagues and Rotisserie leagues, as they have their own quirks and rules, and, 2. Things are going to get a little weird later in the column.

Full disclosure: I do not like Head-to-Head leagues. But I play in them because I like the people who ask me to join them. It's like making dinner plans for a restaurant you really hate, but agreeing to eat there anyway because the other people going are cool and the drinks are cheap. Suck it up, have some fun, and you can always go to a bar you like that same night (Roto leagues) to balance things out.

If that doesn't get you fired up for my following four Head-to-Head strategies, I don't know what will. Read on and enjoy!

1. Don't reach for sleepers

Unlike Roto formats, where 23 players are drafted as starters, Points leagues have a truncated roster -- three outfielders instead of five, no corner or middle infield spots, one catcher, and smaller rotations that force you to pick a certain amount of starters and relievers. Because of this, many deep-ish sleepers are either marginalized or irrelevant. If you have a lot of love for a player like Lonnie Chisenhall, for example, it may have to continue in secret, as he could be too deep to even use a bench spot on in most standard Head-to-Head formats.

2. Get ready to ignore low-end closers

There are a handful of pitchers who will be starters in 2013, but retain relief pitcher eligibility because of the appearances they made last year. Kris Medlen, Aroldis Chapman, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Alexi Ogando are probably the most high-profile, but there are a few more lower-tier options who could make a case for Head-to-Head relevance (like David Phelps, Andrew Cashner, and Wade Davis). Their eligibility as relievers essentially sets off dominoes and squeezes the lower-ranked closers out of the draft window. And because those closers are then sent to the waiver wire, there's really little reason to use limited bench spots on them, as they'll be available for adding and dropping throughout the entire season. So while Bruce Rondon and Jonathan Broxton have plenty of value in Roto leagues, they may be little more than waiver wire fodder in Head-to-Head formats, at least initially.

3. Don't be obtuse about the scoring quirks

I used to be an idiot, refusing to use starters in RP roles and ignoring doubles and walks when I played in Head-to-Head leagues. Then, one night, I was visited by the three spirits, who took me on a journey through my past, present, and future and showed me the folly of my ways.

The Voided Check of Leagues Past took me to 2008, when I complained in message board posts about how dumb it was to allow starters to be used as relievers, losing to my college roommate, Rob, twice that season because he used Justin Duchscherer in his RP slot and I insisted on plugging in only closers.

The Hundred Dollar Bill of Leagues Present brought me to Rob's fancy apartment in Boston, pointing out all the cool stuff he was able to buy with his winnings from that year.

And the League-Fees-Are-Due E-mail Reminder of Seasons Yet To Come took me to my gravesite, where I died broke and penniless at the age of 41, having given all my money in the form of league fees to my friends (who, incidentally, all pitched in for a nice baseball-shaped floral arrangement). I woke up with a new paradigm: If the rules allow for you to plug in Kris Medlen as a reliever -- which will result in him accruing more points for the absurdly heavily-weighted innings pitched, for instance -- then you do it. You're not going to win any titles sticking to Rotisserie strategies, personal ideals, unfounded feelings of nobility, or anything else that would, in a normal world, fall under the umbrella of fairness and logic. As much as I hate the idea of rewarding a player for hitting doubles, I'm still going to run Alex Gordon up my Head-to-Head ranks. If you don't address these quirks, you are setting yourself up for failure.

4. Persuade your commissioner to enact some playoff changes

One of the biggest gripes from people playing in Head-to-Head formats -- especially those in the standard variations -- is that teams scoring a lot of points end up with mediocre records and eventually miss the playoffs. In my many years of playing, I've found two fixes for this:

1. Convince your league to change playoff requirements. If six of your league's 12 teams make the playoffs, then have the first four be placed by record, with the final two wildcards getting in based on highest point totals. If only four make it, then the top two records should be seeded along with two high-scoring wildcards. This way, you avoid the all-too-familiar scenario of a great team having scored more points than most of its opponents, but getting shut out of the playoffs because it got stuck with an unfavorable schedule.

2. CBSSports.com has a pretty awesome option, where a commissioner can opt to have teams play more than one opponent each week. So if you score the second-highest amount of points in a week and get pitted against the team that scored the most, you still have another game against another opponent that same week. Instead of finishing the week 0-1, you have a 1-1 record. The downside to this is that it kind of squashes the anticipation and fun of playing just one friend each week, as you have to spread your attention over two games. The upside, though, is having a larger sample size in terms of win-loss record, thus avoiding those weeks where the second-highest scoring team gets stuck with a loss.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Dodgers' Friedman on Juan Jaime: 'He can really miss bats'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman spoke Wednesday about pitcher Juan Jaime, who was acquired from the Braves along with three others players in a six-man deal earlier in the day and assigned to extended spring training, MLB.com reports.

"He can really miss bats," Friedman said. "The limiting factor with him is the control. So we'll send him to Camelback and really attack the problem. If he can harness that even a little bit, we feel like we've added a really good player."

Jaime has posted a 5.93 ERA and 19:13 K:BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings with the Braves over two seasons. He has also walked nine batters in 5 1/3 innings in the minors this season after dishing out 36 walks in 41 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014.


Angels' Collin Cowgill likely headed to disabled list Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:39 am ET) Angels outfielder Collin Cowgill is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Cowgill is dealing with a joint sprain in his hand after sustaining an injury during batting practice on Sunday and a subsequent MRI. He has hit .180/.231/.295 with one home run, two RBI and one stolen base in 61 at-bats. The Angels added a replacement bench outfielder in a trade Wednesday, acquiring Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets.


Angels option Marc Krauss to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:37 am ET) The Angels optioned first baseman Marc Krauss to Triple-A Salt Lake after Wednesday's loss to the Padres, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Krauss loses his 25-man roster spot to outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was added in a trade earlier in the day. The first baseman was just 5 for 35 with one home run and five RBI with the Angels. He returns to a .281/.405/.458 line with two home runs and 17 RBI in 96 at-bats with Salt Lake.


Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler blows save, takes loss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was saddled with his second blown save and first loss of the season on Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning in his team's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Ziegler entered the ninth inning looking to protect a one-run lead but opened the frame by serving up a game-tying home run. He gave up a single before recording the first out of the inning, then walked two batters (one intentionally) to bring up Jhonny Peralta. The shortstop grounded into a fielder's choice, with the lead runner getting thrown out at home, but a throwing error by the catcher trying to record a double play brought the winning run home.

Ziegler owns a 1.25 ERA and 14:8 K:BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings.


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero knocks ninth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Dodgers left fielder Alex Guerrero went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves on Wedensday.

Guerrero was hitless on the day before connecting on a ninth-inning homer off closer Jason Grilli, but his shot only reduced the lead to one run before the Dodgers eventually fell. It's the third home run in four games for Guerrero, who has hit .310/.344/.701 with nine homers and 21 RBI in 87 at-bats.


Braves' Cameron Maybin slugs fifth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Maybin put his team up 1-0 with his homer to center field in the third inning, his first home run since May 2. He has hit .261/.361/.435 with five home runs, 19 RBI and six stolen bases in 115 at-bats.


Braves' Jason Grilli surrenders homer, earns 14th save
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Braves closer Jason Grilli served up a homer on Wednesday but was able to record his 14th save in his team's 3-2 win over the Dodgers.

Grilli needed 24 pitches to escape the outing, getting a quick out before surrendering a solo home run to cut his team's lead to one run. He then gave up a single and recorded another out to bring pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, making his Dodger debut after opening the season with the Braves, to the plate. The closer got Callaspo to fly out to end the game.

Grilli owns a 4.41 ERA and 23:7 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings.


Angels' Matt Joyce slugs second homer Wednesday vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Angels left fielder Matt Joyce went 1 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 5-4 loss to the Padres on Wednesday.

Joyce was able to tie the game with his sixth-inning homer, though the Angels would immediately fall back in a hole by giving up two runs in the top of the seventh. The outfielder has hit .176/.253/.282 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 131 at-bats.


Cardinals' Matt Holliday reaches base in 43rd consecutive game
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:10 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday reached base in his 43rd game played in a row during Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. 

Holliday hit a single in the fifth inning, which vaulted him ahead of Albert Pujols for the club's record of consecutive games reaching base to start a season.

It also set a National League record in the same category, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Yeah, that’s cool," Holliday said. "A lot of players have played in the National League. That’s pretty good, I guess."

Only five players have started a season reaching base in more consecutive games — Derek Jeter (Yankees, 53, 1999), Frank Thomas (White Sox, 52, 1996), Mark McGwire (Athletics, 48, 1996), Alvin Davis (Mariners, 47, 1984), Harry Heilmann (Tigers, 44, 1923). 


Dodgers' Zack Greinke strikes out nine in no-decision vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke wasn't a factor in the decision on Wednesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks in six innings while striking out nine in his team's 3-2 loss to the Braves.

Greinke, whose only run allowed came on a third-inning homer by Cameron Maybin, also went 1 for 2 at the plate and stole a base for the first time this season and the fourth time in 244 career at-bats. He has yet to be caught on the basepaths.

Greinke owns a 1.48 ERA and 58:14 K:BB ratio in 67 innings. Although he's allowed just one run in each of his last four outings, he hasn't recorded a win since May 5. Greinke's next start is slated for Tuesday against the Rockies in Colorado.


 
 
 
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