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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Head-to-Head strategies

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More Head-to-Head strategies: Scott White | Nando Di Fino

Head-to-Head leagues don't have the tradition or the purist appeal of Rotisserie. What it does have is the thrill of actual, you know, head-to-head competition on a weekly basis.

Not only does the format offer a chance to create and build rivalries with each scoring period, but as in real baseball, all kinds of player contributions count. Doubles, triples, walks, innings pitched ... these things matter in the real game and they matter in Head-to-Head. So if realism is what you want, Head-to-Head gets you closer to it than Rotisserie.

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The broader array of categories that goes into standard Head-to-Head point totals creates very different markets for players than standard Rotisserie drafts and auctions do. Doubles hitter Alex Gordon may not have the home run clout of Adam Jones or Jay Bruce, but he could actually be more valuable than either of them as long as he continues to hit 45 or more two-baggers per year. Similarly, Martin Prado is a top 10 third baseman in Head-to-Head due to his stinginess with strikeouts, but that skill doesn't take him nearly as far in Rotisserie leagues.

The 16-player roster, as compared to the 23-player version found in Rotisserie, also impacts players' values. For example, with three outfield spots to fill instead of five, there is less urgency to the get that position filled. However, the same logic does not apply to catchers, even though there is only one spot for them instead of two (more on this below).

For those more familiar with Rotisserie, the world of Head-to-Head may seem bewildering, but a few simple rules of thumb will help you to navigate the myriad of scoring categories and scaled-down rosters. The adjustment may seem awkward at first, and life without MI and CI spots will feel strange and unfamiliar, but you'll gain the satisfaction of having a chance to emerge the victor of a one-on-one battle week after week.

1. Look for innings eaters

In any Fantasy format, there is a benefit to drafting pitchers who tend to work deep into games. After all, a high innings count is indicative of avoiding crooked innings and pitching effectively on regular basis. In Head-to-Head, the knack for piling up innings takes a pitcher even further. For example, Bronson Arroyo put up a nice 1.21 WHIP last season, but with otherwise underwhelming numbers, he was no one's idea of a Rotisserie stud. Because he avoids walks and pitches to contact, Arroyo has been one of the majors' more efficient hurlers in recent years. The lack of strikeouts and mediocre ERAs may make him an afterthought for many Fantasy owners, but Arroyo's ability to consistently deliver 200-plus innings makes him viable in Head-to-Head. Tim Hudson, Ervin Santana, Mark Buehrle, Wandy Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda and Jason Vargas also deserve extra consideration in this format, as each has placed among the top 25 pitchers in numbers of starts equalling or exceeding six innings over the last three seasons.

In deeper Head-to-Head formats, the strategy of identifying pitchers who provide high innings totals works for relievers as well. Can't find a reliever who has even a remote chance at getting saves? Try for a middle or long reliever with a track record of 75-plus inning seasons. Durable types like Matt Belisle, Alfredo Aceves and Craig Stammen are rare among relievers, and those of their ilk are worth rostering in deep leagues as long as their other stats are reasonably good.

2. Find pitching sleepers by using unorthodox stats

A by-product of Head-to-Head's emphasis on innings is that pitchers can reward their owners by getting outs through means other than the strikeout. The K is still the most productive way for a pitcher to record an out for Head-to-Head owners, but having a special knack for avoiding baserunners in other ways can also enhance a pitcher's value. Pitchers like Jered Weaver and Mike Minor, who have had success in getting popouts at a high rate, can give Head-to-Head owners a little extra value. The same is true for pitchers who are able to get outs on balls in play at a higher rate due to the quality of their team's defense. The Nationals sport some solid gloves in their infield, and while that should benefit their whole staff, sinkerballer Ross Detwiler should get an especially pronounced boost. With the additions of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs, the Indians upgraded their outfield defense, and that can only help their starting pitchers -- and Ubaldo Jimenez (38 percent flyball rate in 2012) and Zach McAllister (39 percent) in particular -- in Head-to-Head.

3. Get to know ISO

Just as batted ball rates and defensive metrics have their place in identifying pitching sleepers, Isolated Power is a stat that goes a long way in finding hidden gems among hitters. Also known as ISO, the stat measures the rate at which a hitter gets extra bases per at-bat. You can use the formula SLG-AVG to calculate it, and because it treats all extra bases the same, it's a way to spotlight players with extra-base power, regardless of whether it's skewed toward home runs, triples or doubles. Owners accustomed to equating power with homers may view Shin-Soo Choo as being miles ahead of Angel Pagan in terms of value, but last season Choo (.159 ISO) was only marginally better than Pagan (.152) at accruing extra bases. ISO appreciates Pagan's triples power and helps to present a clearer reflection of the two players' relative value in Head-to-Head. Ben Zobrist, Alex Rios, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino are among the hitters who have registered an ISO greater than .165 over the last three seasons but hit no more than 60 home runs over at least 1,500 at-bats. While they shouldn't be mistaken for major power sources, the reliance that each has placed on doubles and/or triples to create power may still leave them underrated in some Head-to-Head leagues.

4. Make catcher a bigger priority

With the possible exception of Buster Posey, even the best catchers in Fantasy come loaded with risk and question marks. There still is good reason to target Posey, Carlos Santana or Joe Mauer within the early rounds, but if you miss out on them, don't wait too long to fill your one-and-only catcher spot. At least in Rotisserie, if you wait to draft your first catcher, you can balance out the value you lose by passing over the catching elite by getting a high-end No. 2 catcher. In standard Head-to-Head leagues, you don't have that luxury, so if you wait too long, your options will come down to someone like Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Doumit or Alex Avila. Those are fine alternatives in Rotisserie, but each could represent a loss of more than 100 Fantasy points as compared to the Big Three, and that gap could be hard to make up at other positions.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Stephen Vogt expected to undergo foot surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt is expected to undergo surgery to repair a plantar plate tear in his injured foot, though he will seek a second opinion before having the procedure, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Vogt, who went 0 for 3 in Tuesday's wild-card loss to the Royals, struggled in the second half of September after missing 11 games earlier in the month. He still finished the season with a .279/.321/.431 line along with nine home runs and 35 RBI in 269 at-bats.


Hyun-Jin Ryu throws problem-free simulated game
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:09 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu threw 45 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday and reported no problems "before, during or after" with his injured shoulder, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ryu will have the shoulder examined Thursday, and if no problems are found, he could be an option for Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals Monday. Out since Sept. 12, he posted a 3.38 ERA and 139:29 K:BB ratio in 152 innings.


Chris Owings to undergo shoulder surgery Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Thursday, the team announced.

Owings missed the last few games of the season with the shoulder issue, finishing the year with a .261/.300/.406 line along with six home runs, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases in 310 at-bats. He is expected to be ready for the beginning of spring training.


C.J. Cron to DH in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron will serve as the designated hitter in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, MLB.com reports.

After a sold start to his season in May and June, Cron has slowed down considerably in the second half, hitting just .209/.261/.395 with two home runs in 43 at-bats in September. He wrapped up his first major-league season with a .256/.289/.450 line along with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 242 at-bats.


Josh Hamilton to start in left field in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, the Orange County Register reports.

Hamilton has been out of action for two weeks with a shoulder injury, and he's played just one game since Sept. 4. He hit .263/.331/.414 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 338 at-bats during the regular season.


Angels to call upon Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson in ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Angels announced the team's rotation plans for the American League Division Series Wednesday, with Matt Shoemaker drawing the start in Friday's Game 2 and C.J. Wilson taking the mound for Game 3 Sunday.

Shoemaker hasn't made an appearance since Sept. 15 while recovering from an oblique injury. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 124:24 K:BB ratio in 136 innings. Wilson finished the regular season with a 4.51 ERA and 151:85 K:BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.


Nick Punto's club option vests
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:09 pm ET) Athletics infielder Nick Punto said Wednesday that his club option, which was dependent on non-DL days on the active roster, vested, putting him back with the team in 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Punto will make $2.75 million in 2015 according to the terms of the contract he signed last offseason. He hit .207/.296/.293 with two home runs, 14 RBI and three stolen bases in 198 at-bats while spending most of his playing time at second base and shortstop.


White Sox outright Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) The White Sox outrighted pitcher Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Wednesday.

De Los Santos spent most of his time at Charlotte this season, posting a 5.75 ERA and 17:17 K:BB ratio in 36 innings. The move opens up a 40-man roster spot for the White Sox.


Michael Morse expected to return if Giants advance
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) Giants outfielder Michael Morse, who is inactive for Wednesday's wild-card game against the Pirates, will be activated at some point if the Giants advance, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Morse hasn't played since Sept. 20 due to an oblique injury.

Jed Lowrie open to returning to A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Upcoming free-agent shortstop Jed Lowrie is willing to listen to the Athletics regarding a potential return next season but admitted that money will be a factor in his decision, MLB.com reports.

After two years of hitting at least 15 home runs, Lowrie saw his power fall in 2014, hitting .249/.321/.355 with just six home runs and 50 RBI in 502 at-bats. He enters free agency with a career .261/.330/.411 line along with 56 home runs and 284 RBI in 2,253 career at-bats.


 
 
 
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