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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
Rays RP Kirby Yates makes appearance in extended spring game
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(10:38 am ET) Rays reliever Kirby Yates (strained right pectoral) threw 16 pitches in one inning during an extended spring game Thursday, according to The Tampa Tribune.

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The right-hander had walked 14 batters in his first four starts, which included three outings of four walks. However, he hasn't walked more than two batters in his last five starts. He has a 2.30 ERA in his last five outings after posting a 5.32 ERA in his first four starts.

"I’m not making the mistakes that I made at the beginning of the year," he said, per The Tampa Tribune. "I’m kind of growing and understanding how the game works at this level. I’m just trying to stay on top of throwing strikes and limiting my walks.

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by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) After it appeared Padres starting pitcher Ian Kennedy turned the corner in his previous start against the Dodgers, his issues resurfaced in a loss Thursday against the Padres, as he allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.

"He is bummed because he was looking forward to this one,'' manager Bud Black said, per MLB.com. "He got some pitches elevated and they didn't miss them.''

Kennedy has now lost his last four starts and has seen his ERA balloon to 7.15.

"I'm falling behind hitters and it's tough to pitch like that,'' Kennedy said.

The right-hander said the strained left hamstring that landed him on the disabled list is not the reason for his woes. 

"There is definitely no pain,'' he said. 

Kennedy struggled with his fastball command Thursday.

"I don't know if I'm yanking the ball, pushing the ball,'' he said. "I've been up and down and it's very frustrating. My fastball command was all over the place."

Kennedy, who did record his 1,000th career strikeout on Thursday, said he will work with pitching coach Darren Balsley to figure out how to end this slide.

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(9:58 am ET) Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett won a fifth straight start Thursday at San Diego, improving to 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA through 10 starts.

Thursday was actually the first time all season the 38-year-old veteran allowed more than two runs in a start, but he's enjoyed a nice turnaround after totaling a career-worst 18 losses in 2014 with the Phillies.

"I'm throwing the same stuff I threw when I was here before, or even last year," Burnett said, per MLB.com. "People are saying I'm doing more because I'm executing more. The difference between the last couple of years and this year is that I'm executing more pitches than I'm not, that's the bottom line. I'm just sticking to the things I do."


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Cabrera did hobble around after getting hit and was checked out by trainer Doug Teter, but the veteran slugger remained in the game and gave a thumbs up to manager Brad Ausmus.

"It stings him at first, and it's in an area that's been a problem for him," Ausmus said, per MLB.com. "But I think he realized relatively quickly that his ankle was fine, relatively speaking."

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Cabrera had one more at-bat in the fifth inning before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. However, it was more because the Tigers were trailing 12-2 than because Cabrera was hurting, per MLB.com.

Ausmus said he expects Cabrera to start Friday, and he will likely be in the lineup at first base.

"He doesn't really like DHing," Ausmus said. "As a matter of fact, he says it's more beneficial for him to be playing first because it keeps the ankle loose."


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(9:16 am ET) Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis collected two more hits Thursday against the Mariners, giving him 15 multihit games and 48 total hits in May. The 48 hits are the most in May by a Cleveland player since at least 1914, surpassing Bobby Avila's 1954 record of 47, per MLB.com.

Kipnis is the first Indians player to have 48 hits, 28 runs and 20 extra-base hits in a month since July 1936.

Kipnis has a .449/.532/.738/1.270 slash line in 26 May games. He also has three triples, four home runs, 13 doubles, 16 RBI, 14 walks, 28 runs and three stolen bases.

"All winter, I think I kept telling you that he was going to come out with a vengeance," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And that's exactly what it looks like. He's attacking every game. He's in the middle of everything."


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(1:55 am ET) Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco connected off Padres starter Ian Kennedy for his second home run of the season during Thursday's 11-5 win over the Padres.

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