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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
Jordan Zimmermann's success tied to effectiveness of curveball
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:44 pm ET) Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann has been outstanding in his last two starts, tossing 15 2/3 scoreless innings. He has struck out nine and not issued a walk in that span.

"I had a good curveball the last two starts and felt like I could throw it when I wanted to, where I wanted to, any count," Zimmermann told reporters, per MASNsports.com. "Keep them off balance, just pound the zone, let those guys behind me play defense."

Manager Matt Williams said having solid command of his offspeed pitches has allowed Zimmermann's fastball to be more effective.

"The ability to throw a breaking ball behind in the count, early in the count," Williams said. "Had a good feel for his curveball tonight, especially against their lefties. The ball was down in the strike zone. If he can do that, then he can get a lot of swings and misses down on the breaking ball, which he got tonight."


Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki getting a breather on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:39 pm ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will put his 14-game hitting streak on hold on Wednesday, at least to start the game. Tulowitzki is getting a rest and is being held out of the lineup for the afternoon matchup with the A's.

Tulowitzki had started all but one of the 14 games, so he is due for a rest. Daniel Descalso will draw the start at shortstop, while batting eighth.


Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez throws off mound on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:30 pm ET) Blue Jays young right-hander Aaron Sanchez sucessfully threw off of a mound on Wednesday in Dunedin. It's the first time he has done such since landing on the disabled list early in June with a strained lat muscle. 

No issues were reported, according to SportsNet, and he's expected to have another mound session on Saturday before the next steps in his recovery are determined.


Padres 3B Will Middlebrooks (ankle) still sidelined Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:07 pm ET) Padres third baseman Will Middlebrooks remains out of the starting lineup for Wednesday's matchup with the Mariners. Middlebrooks will miss a second consecutive game after spraining his right ankle on Sunday. 

Middlebrooks was able to pinch hit on Tuesday, but his availability for Wednesday's game is unknown.


Reds LF Marlon Byrd homers for third time since DL activation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:45 pm ET) Reds left fielder Marlon Byrd homered during an 8-5 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday. Byrd connected for a solo home run off Phil Hughes leading off the seventh inning for his 13th home run.

Byrd has homered three times in 10 games since coming off the disabled list June 19. Nine of his 13 home runs have been solo homers.

Byrd is batting .311 (14 for 45) with a .511 slugging percentage, .837 OPS, six runs, five RBI, one walk and seven strikeouts in his last 10 games.


Diamondbacks' Nick Ahmed homers in consecutive games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed homered for the second straight game during Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. Ahmed connected for a two-run homer off Carlos Frias in the fourth inning for his sixth home run.

Ahmed has been on a nice power surge, homering three times in his last eight games. He is batting. 295 with a .492 slugging percentage and .840 OPS in his last 18 games. He has three doubles, three home runs, nine RBI, eight runs, five walks and two stolen bases in that span.


Red Sox's Koji Uehara on struggles in day games: 'Because I'm old'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has been much more effective during night games than day games in 2015. He has a 1.40 ERA in 21 appearances at night, as opposed to a 6.23 ERA in 10 outings during the day.

“Because I’m old,” Uehara said through a translator, per WEEI.com. “Older guys need to sleep in.

“What I’m figuring could be in the sunlight can see better and that’s why I’m getting hit a little bit more in day games. That’s the only reasoning I can think of. Also the fact that my body is not awakened as night games.”

Pitching coach Carl Willis doesn't have an issue with Uehara saying he struggles during the day.

“That’s where the communication comes in, and the trust factor,” Willis said. “It’s good to hear him say that because you don’t want that false positivity when you’re not 100 percent, or you are dragging that day. We need to know those things.

“It’s more difficult [when you’re older]. But I think in his case he does everything he can to combat that. He’s very routine oriented and understands what he needs to do. But there are times you can’t avoid it, either.”


Twins' Molitor excited about Ervin Santana's return from suspension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor is excited about starting pitcher Ervin Santana's return from an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Santana is slated to start Sunday against the Royals.

Santana threw eight shutout innings in his final rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday.

“I just had a chance to look at the numbers,” Molitor said, per the Pioneer Press. “They kind of jump out at you. He was efficient, obviously effective. Command must have been good; he didn’t walk anybody. I think everyone is excited to know we’re getting a pitcher of Ervin’s caliber back here to join our club over the weekend.”


Pirates LF Starling Marte owns six-game hitting streak
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:08 pm ET) Pirates left fielder Starling Marte went 1 for 6 in Tuesday's extra-innings victory over the Tigers. Marte is now carrying a modest six-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .348 (8 for 23).

Tigers OF Rajai Davis pushes hit streak to eight games on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:03 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis extended his current hitting streak to eight games with a pinch-hit single in Tuesday's extra-innings loss to the Pirates.

During the eight-game stretch, Davis is batting .346 with a home run and two doubles. 


 
 
 
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