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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
Phillies officially deal Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman to Rangers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:12 pm ET) The Phillies and Rangers finally completed their blockbuster trade Friday.

The Rangers will receive starting pitcher Cole Hamels, reliever Jake Diekman and cash considerations in exchange for starting pitcher Matt Harrison, outfield prospect Nick Williams, catcher prospect Jorge Alfaro, starting pitcher prospect Jake Thompson, starting pitcher prospect Alec Asher and starting pitcher prospect Jerad Eickhoff.

The 31-year-old Hamels, who will make his Texas debut Saturday against the Giants, has compiled a 114-90 record, 3.30 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 10 seasons in the majors -- all with the Phillies. The three-time All-Star is under contract through 2018 on a seven-year, $159 million deal. He also has a $20 million option ($6 million buyout) for 2019.

The 28-year-old Diekman is in his fourth MLB season. He has compiled a 9-11 record, 3.84 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 191 career relief appearances for Philadelphia. He is striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings.


Brewers dispatch RP Jonathan Broxton to Cardinals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton has been traded from the Brewers to the Cardinals, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. The Brewers are receiving minor-league outfielder Malik Collymore in the deal.

The 31-year-old Broxton has been pitching well lately with seven consecutive scoreless appearances. But his ERA on the season is 5.89. He has allowed 41 hits in 36 2/3 innings.


Giants veteran Tim Hudson loses spot in rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Giants veteran right-hander Tim Hudson has been booted from the rotation in the wake of the trade that brought Mike Leake over from Cincinnati, per the San Jose Mercury News. That word came down from general manager Bobby Evans, who informed Hudson of the decision.

The 40-year-old Hudson, who is coming off a strong start in a defeat of Oakland, is 6-8 with a 4.80 ERA that would be the second-worst of his career if maintained.


Pirates SP A.J. Burnett dismissing recent struggles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) Slumping Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett is downplaying his struggles, which reached a new low in a miserable outing Thursday against Cincinnati.

"I don't think it's a rough patch, man," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Just had a bad day, that's all."

Burnett allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings in taking his second straight loss. That was the worst of three outings in which he has given up 18 runs on a whopping 32 hits in 16 innings pitched.

He had not surrendered more than four runs in any start in the first half of the season. He has yielded at least five in every start since the All-Star break. His ERA has risen from 2.11 to 3.06 since then.


Brewers send LF Gerardo Parra to Orioles for SP Zach Davies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) The Brewers have traded left fielder Gerardo Parra to the Orioles for highly touted pitching prospect Zach Davies, per CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Only successful physicals are holding up its completion.

It was thought at one time that Baltimore would need to give up more to land Parra, who is on a 13-game hitting streak and has sweetened his slash line on the year to .326/.369/.517.

Davies has progressed through the system every year. He is enjoying arguably his finest season at Triple-A Norfolk with a 2.84 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings.


Manager assures Indians SP Carlos Carrasco he won't be dealt
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:27 am ET) Terry Francona has assured Indians starter Carlos Carrasco that he will not be traded.

Carrasco, who hurled a complete-game victory Thursday night in Oakland, had been rumored to be headed to Toronto, but reports have claimed that deal fell through and that the Blue Jays have given up their pursuit.

"[Francona] told me, "We're not going to trade you,'" Carrasco told MLB.com. "That's what he told me. ... I don't care what I hear about whether they're going to trade me. I'm still here and I'm still working. That's what I need to do."

Carrasco has arguably been the team's second-best starter behind Corey Kluber, but he's been inconsistent. He is 11-8 with a 4.03 ERA.


Report: Braves almost certainly won't trade C A.J. Pierzynski
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Surprising catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be sticking around unless the Braves are overwhelmed with an offer, according to USA Today, which is claiming that he has become too valuable to the organization on and off the field. He had previously been rumored to be on the trading block.

Pierzynski seemed to be winding down his career as a backup upon his arrival in Atlanta, but he quickly wrested the starting job away from Christian Bethancourt and has been performing well ever since. He has even batted cleanup on occasion.

He has compiled a slash line of .287/.325/.425 on the year and is currently on a six-game hitting streak.

 


Arodys Vizcaino to serve as Braves closer following Jim Johnson trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:29 am ET) After the trade of Jim Johnson to the Dodgers, Arodys Vizcaino will serve as the Braves closer, according to MLB.com.

The 24-year-old right-hander has not recorded a save in his MLB career. He is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 10 appearances (nine innings) in 2015. He has eight strikeouts and four walks.

Vizcaino missed the start of the season while serving an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.


Rockies' Nick Hundley hits game-tying home run in loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) Rockies catcher Nick Hundley went 2 for 5 with a single and two RBI, including a solo home run in Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Cardinals. Hundley launched his eighth home run in the sixth inning to tie the game at 6-6. 

Hundley has been swinging the bat well over the past two weeks or so. In his last 14 games, the backstop is hitting .358 with two home runs and nine RBI. 


Pirates outright OF Gorkys Hernandez to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:00 am ET) The Pirats announced late Thursday they have outrighted outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to Triple-A Indianapolis, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hernandez had been on a rehab assignment at Triple-A. He was hitless in five at-bats with the Pirates in his first MLB action since 2012 before being put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. 


 
 
 
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