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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
Report: Matt Adams (quad) to undergo surgery Friday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams will undergo surgery to repair a torn quad on Friday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The team announced on Wednesday that Adams had been diagnosed with a strained left quad, which was expected to sideline the first baseman for three-to-four months. The timetable could mean that Adams won't play again this season. He has hit .243/.281/.375 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 144 at-bats.

The Cardinals' most-likely internal option to replace Adams is Mark Reynolds, though the team could explore other options outside the organization.


Nationals IF Danny Espinosa hits homer in win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa hit his sixth home run of the year in Wednesday night's 3-0 win over the Cubs. 

The homer, which came in a pinch-hit situation, was an insurance run for the Nationals in the top of the ninth inning. Espinosa is now hitting .256/.357/.463 for the season. 

Espinosa is on pace to have the best hitting season of his career. He's never ended a year with a batting average over .247. 


Nationals OF Bryce Harper blasts 13th HR in month of May
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:05 am ET) Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper continued his hot streak in the month of May. 

In Wednesday night's 3-0 win over the Cubs, Harper hit his 17th home run of the season in the sixth inning. Harper hit the homer off of Jon Lester nad blasted it into deep left center field. 

For Harper, that's his 13th homer in the month of May. He finished the game 1 for 3 with two walks, giving him 42 walks for the year. Harper is now hitting .331/.470/.745 for the year. 


Cubs P Jon Lester allows 1 earned run in loss to Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Cubs pitcher Jon Lester gave up two runs — one earned — in Wednesday evening's 3-0 loss to the Nationals. 

Lester pitched a solid game, though gave up a home run to Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in the sixth inning. Then again, most pitchers have found it difficult throwing to Harper of late. Lester was still able to strike out 10 batters.

Lester has allowed only four earned runs over his past three starts and now holds a 3.30 ERA. 

His next start is projected for June 2 against the Marlins. 


Nationals P Drew Storen earns save No. 16 against Cubs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Nationals closer Drew Storen recorded his 16th save of the season in Wednesday night's 3-0 win over the Cubs. 

Storen allowed just one hit and once again didn't allow an earned run. He hasn't given up a run since April 21 and has only given up two runs in 20 1/3 innings pitched. Storen was able to record a strikeout as well. 

Storen's ERA is now at 0.84 for the season. 

The Nationals have won 21 of their past 27 games and haven't lost back-to-back games since April 26 and 27. 


Giants' Jake Peavy allows six runs in rehab start Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy (back) surrendered six earned runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings while striking out two in his rehab start with Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday.

Peavy was able to toss 3 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit in his previous rehab outing, which came with Class A San Jose, but he didn't find anywhere near the same success on Wednesday while throwing 76 pitches. Out since April 17, Peavy is set to be re-evaluated by the Giants before his next step is determined.


Angels' Mike Morin getting better, recovery measured in weeks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Angels pitcher Mike Morin is getting better after being placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique, but manager Mike Scioscia said the pitcher's recovery is a matter of "weeks, not days," MLB.com reports.

Morin was removed from Saturday's game with the injury, and it appears he'll be in for an extended stay on the disabled list. He owns a 6.00 ERA and 13:5 K:BB ratio in 15 innings.


Nationals P Max Scherzer strikes out 13 in win over Cubs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer dominated yet another game this season, throwing 13 strikeouts in Wednesday night's 3-0 win over the Cubs. 

Scherzer kept the Cubs at bay during the seven innings he was in, only allowing five hits and one walk. The 13 strikeouts marked a season-high for Scherzer. He's only allowed two earned runs in his last four starts. 

Scherzer's ERA is now down to 1.51. His record is now 6-3 for the year. 

Scherzer's next start is projected for June 2 against the Blue Jays. 


Astros' Tony Sipp takes loss vs. Orioles Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Astros pitcher Tony Sipp was stuck with a loss on Wednesday, giving up the go-ahead run on a solo homer by Chris Davis in his team's 5-4 defeat against the Orioles.

"He's been there for us so much this year," manager A.J. Hinch said, per MLB.com. "A couple of pitches got him and he got burned a little bit. It's difficult for him, and certainly not the way and indicative of how he's pitched this season. I feel bad for our team. We fight back like that and don't get the win."

Sipp (2-2) struck out two on the day but gave up a home run for his second consecutive appearance. He owns a 1.53 ERA and 20:3 K:BB ratio in 17 2/3 innings.


Twins closer Glen Perkins records 18th save of the year Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Twins closer Glen Perkins worked a perfect ninth inning on Wednesday in Minnesota's 6-4 win over the Red Sox, earning his 18th save of the season.

Perkins forced two fly outs and one ground out without allowing a man to reach base in the inning. Perkins now boasts a 1.19 ERA in 22 2/3 innings of work. Perkins has thrown three of the last five days and is looking forward to a bit of rest, according to the Star Tribune.

"[Thursday] is an off-day, so that's good timing," Perkins said. "I have been good this year. I have felt good. Ever since I took the last two weeks of the season off last year, I have felt good. So no worries, and I'm glad that I get a lot of opportunities to pitch."


 
 
 
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