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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
Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Hanigan out of Red Sox's lineup on Sunday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:04 am ET) Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and catcher Ryan Hanigan are out of the Red Sox's starting lineup for Sunday's game against Baltimore. 

Pedroia is hitless in his last two games with three strikeouts. He's getting a rest on Sunday. Brock Holt replaces him at second base, leading off. 

Hanigan also gets a day off. Sandy Leon replaces him behind the plate, batting ninth.


Shane Victorino returns to Red Sox's lineup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino returns to the lineup on Sunday, after he was a late scratch on Saturday with sore ribs. 

Victorino is batting seventh for the Sox on Sunday. 


Pirates' Francisco Cervelli not in lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is not in the starting lineup for Sunday's matchup with the Brewers.

Cervelli has started each of his team's last five games but will catch a break Sunday. Tony Sanchez will get the start behind the plate and bat eighth.

The Pirates are heavy favorites (-170) at home Sunday.


Mets' Collins: Jeurys Familia to close over Bobby Parnell initially
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) Mets manager Terry Collins said Sunday that pitcher Jeurys Familia will remain the closer at least initially when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black return from the disabled list due to his recent success, ESPN New York reports.

Familia has racked up saves in each of his last five appearances while allowing one earned run on one hit and one walk and striking out six batters in 4 2/3 innings. He's posted a 2.70 ERA in 6 2/3 innings over the entire season while striking out nine and walking one.


Stephen Vogt, Ike Davis, Eric Sogard out of Athletics' lineup on Sunday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) The Athletics gave several regulars a rest for Sunday's day game. 

Catcher Stephen Vogt, first baseman Ike Davis, center fielder Sam Fuld and second baseman Eric Sogard were all out of Sunday's starting lineup. 

Josh Phegley gets the start at catcher, batting sixth in the order. Ben Zobrist will play second base, batting third. 

Mark Canha moves from left field to first base, replacing Davis. Cody Ross gets the start in left, batting fifth. 

Craig Gentry gets the call in center, batting leadoff. 


Brewers' Ryan Braun batting third, Aramis Ramirez off Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:52 am ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun is back in the No. 3 spot in the lineup Sunday one day after batting leadoff against the Pirates.

The Brewers stacked the lineup with righties against a left-handed starter Saturday, and Braun made his first career start as a leadoff hitter, going 2 for 3 with two singles, getting plunked once and scoring a run in his team's 6-2 loss. He's back in his normal position for Sunday's series finale.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is out of the starting lineup Sunday for the first time this season. He'll be replaced at third base by Luis Jimenez.

The Brewers are underdogs (+155) in Pittsburgh Sunday.


Tigers' Joe Nathan needs game work before he returns
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Tigers reliever Joe Nathan is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. Manager Brad Ausmus isn't sure if Nathan will be activated on that day, per MLive.

Ausmus did say that Nathan would need game work--either a simulated game or a rehab appearance--before he returned to the Tigers. 


Carlos Beltran out of Yankees' lineup again on Sunday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran is out of the starting lineup for the second straight day. Beltran missed Saturday's game with an illness, and he's not in the lineup for Sunday's game.

Garrett Jones gets the start in right for the Yankees. He'll bat seventh in the order. 

Catcher Brian McCann is also not in the lineup. JR Murphy will start and bat eighth. 


Phillies' Chase Utley out of lineup Sunday vs. Nationals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:37 am ET) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is not in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals.

It's the second day off this season for Utley, who has started six straight games but has hit just .119/.170/.262 in 42 at-bats this April and is 0 for 17 in his last four games. Cesar Hernandez will start at second base in his place.

Left fielder Ben Revere is back in the starting lineup after three straight games on the bench. He went 1 for 1 with a double, a stolen base and two runs scored Saturday after entering the game as a pinch runner in the seventh inning.

The Phillies are massive underdogs (+200) against the Nationals Sunday, per VegasInsider.com.


Nationals' Yunel Escobar (groin) out of lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar is not in the lineup Sunday for a second straight day while nursing a groin injury.

Escobar started each of the team's first 11 games at third base, filling in for the injured Anthony Rendon, before sitting out Saturday with the injury. He said before Sunday's game that he's feeling better and he'll practice on the field, per MLB.com. He also indicated that his MRI only showed groin inflammation, and that he hopes to be back in the lineup Tuesday, the Washington Post reports.

Danny Espinosa will draw a second straight start at third base against the Phillies. The Nationals are heavy home favorites (-225) Sunday.


 
 
 
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