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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
Hunter Pence goes yard Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence hit his 20th home run Saturday against the Padres.

Pence struck in the ninth inning. With the bases empty, Pence smashed an 84 mph changeup from Andrew Cashner out to left. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and one RBI. 


Albert Pujols hits 27th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols clubbed his 27th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Pujols struck in the fifth inning. With a man on, Pujols belted a 90 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. He would also single twice during the game. Pujols finished 3 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Mike Trout clubs 35th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout clubbed his 35th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Trout struck in the third inning. With a man on, Trout belted an 89 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. Trout also walked and tripled during the appearance. He finished 2 for 3, with three runs scored and two RBI. 


Huston Street notches 39th save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) Angels closer Huston Street notched his 39th save Saturday against the Rangers.

Street entered with a three-run lead, and had no issues nailing down the save. He tossed a perfect inning, striking out one during the appearance. Street threw 12 pitches, 10 of which were strikes. 


Colby Lewis knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis got knocked around Saturday against the Angels.

Lewis allowed eight runs, seven earned, on nine hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. After giving up a run in the first inning, home runs became a big issue for Lewis. After Kole Calhoun reached on an error to start the third inning, Lewis gave up a two-run shot against Mike Trout. Things got worse in the fifth inning. After a Trout triple, Albert Pujols clubbed a two-run shot. After two singles, David Freese added a three-run shot.

With the loss, Lewis dropped to 10-14. He’ll take on the Athletics in his next start. 


Jered Weaver wins No. 18 Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver turned in a strong start against the Rangers.

Weaver allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked one during the outing. He was excellent to open the game, tossing six scoreless frames to start things off. He gave up his first run in the seventh inning. With men on second and third, Weaver gave up a run on a groundout. He gave up his final run in the eighth inning. After giving up two straight singles to open the inning, Weaver left the game. One run would come around to score, and was charged to Weaver.

With the win, Weaver improved to 18-8. He’ll take on the Mariners in his next start.


Abraham Almonte leaves with injury Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Padres outfielder Abraham Almonte left Saturday's game with an ankle issue.

Almonte hit a ground-rule double in the third inning. He had trouble getting the second base, and appeared to injury his ankle. He was replaced by a pinch-runner. Almonte finished 1 for 1, with a double. 


Steve Pearce to miss a few days
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce will miss a few days after receiving a cortisone shot, according to MASN. 

Pearce was scratched Saturday with a wrist issue. He received a cortisone shot, and will miss the next few days as the shot kicks in. 


David Ortiz goes yard Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz belted his 35th home run Saturday against the Orioles. 

Ortiz struck in his first at-bat. With a man on, Ortiz took a 75 mph knuckle curve from Chris Tillman out to left center for the two-run shot. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Adam Jones clubs two home runs Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Orioles outfielder Adam Jones belted two runs Saturday against the Red Sox.

Jones first struck in the third inning. With a man on, Jones sent a 95 mph fastball out to right center for a two-run shot. He did it again in the fifth. Jones stepped to the plate with a man on again, and managed to take an 83 mph slider out to left for another two-run shot. He finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and four RBI. 


 
 
 
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