In the beginning… there was fantasy baseball. Then there was fantasy football. Then fantasy football became more popular than fantasy baseball (at least in my circle of friends). We had to do something to preserve the real game that is imaginary that is based on a real game that we pour our blood, sweat and tears into. So, fantasy baseball ushered in the head to head format. Personally, I prefer it to roto. I have more fun with a feeling of direct competition, me against you, rather than an overall you against the league marathon vibe that classic roto offers. H2H isn’t brand spanking new, or some big secret we, the fine collective staff of FB365, are releasing to the world, but there are subtle differences in strategy used to win a H2H league as opposed to a Roto style scoring league. If you’re new to this, read on. If you aren’t this may be old hat info, but I already got the page view out of you Mr. Head to head scoring strategy smartypants! Help your new players out and comment at the end with your own strategy tips or elaborate on tips I’ve provided, or completely disagree with anything I write below. Criticism is welcome so long as you can back it up. Or, you could chose to keep mum, and let the new player flounder for a year in your league, beat him mercilessly into the ground, then share strategy after the season, but that’s mean.
On to a Q&A session I held with myself on this topic.
Q. How important is pitching in H2H?
A. Ultimately it depends on your league settings. Is there an even number of scoring categories for pitching and hitting? Yes? Then it’s just as important as hitting. They aren’t even? What has more? Which ever does will be more important to target during your draft.
Q. OK, so suppose there are more hitting categories than pitching categories? What then?
A. Work on drafting hitters early, and then target pitching, but don’t go about it all willy-nilly. Generally starters are going to be great for Wins, strikeouts, and the really good ones help your ERA and WHIP, whereas the relievers are only good for Saves, ERA and WHIP. Your league keeps track of Holds? That just made drafting easier! Skip out on drafting closers! For your RP spots, get guys that are the bullpen aces but not necessarily closers. Someone like a Sean Marshall. He will get tons of Hold chances, be a boon to your ERA and WHIP categories, and will luck into a Save every now and then. Middle relievers are a dime a dozen. It’s easier to replace a Marhsall or a Samardzija than it is Rivera or Kimbrel. Better yet? If Rivera or Kimbrel does get hurt, you probably already have their replacement. Boom! Now you’re competitive in Saves.
Q. So you just skipped over Saves completely there… are we booting that hoping a closer gets hurt?
A. Yes and No… you don’t really want to punt a category since that just gives a point to your opponent for free. While Your opponent may be appreciative of it, giving up points is no way to secure a championship. Get a couple of closers, just to give yourself a chance. You aren’t punting, but you aren’t really trying to win it either. Just stay a float there.
Q. What if there is more pitching categories than hitting?
A. This same strategy should work there too, in fact it should still be effective if the categories are even. I just saved myself from asking an extra question! Or did I just ask more questions than I needed to by offering the same strategy for three questions?
Q. What about starting pitching?
A. If you are following the draft hitters first strategy, then you are going to miss out on a lot of (if not all) the top arms in the starting pitchers market. Having elite starting pitching is nice and all, but even if you wait to draft a starting pitcher, guys like Jaimie Garcia, Cory Luebke, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster should all be available in rounds 10 and later, after you have filled your positions with guys that will rake. They aren’t slouches! Besides, another thing I haven’t mentioned yet (bet I’m going to now…) is that you want to draft a lot of starting pitching. As I’ll get into with the next answer to the question I haven’t asked myself yet, there isn’t an innings pitched limit in H2H scoring. The more starting pitching you have the more Wins and K’s you’ll accumulate. Flood your team with starters. You aren’t worried about how one guy is going to do over a whole season like Roto, you want to get as much bang for your buck each week. Get lots of starters and check your team daily to make sure they are pitching. Pitchers don’t play everyday, so a pitcher not pitching isn’t collecting points for your team. Position players usually play every day. If you focused on offense early you probably are close to having a top performer at each position. Are you really going to bench Dustin Pedroia for Jose Altuve? Use your bench for pitching.
Q. How Good is a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg in H2H fantasy baseball?
A. He is awesome… until he reaches his innings pitched limit and is shut down for the season and you just lost your stud pitcher for the league playoffs. There isn’t generally a max innings pitched limit on players in H2H scoring like there is in Roto, so the value of having someone who is an elite talent that you know isn’t going to pitch the whole season drops. Any pitcher worth owning with an innings pitched limit on him for the season is great for a little while, but is someone I would be looking to shop to another owner around the real life All Star break. This is well before the trade deadline for your league and well before the ESPN’s and Fox Sport’s of the world start talking about how he is going to be shut down soon. Getting to the playoffs in a league is important, but it’s more important to win once you get there. Stephen Strasburg isn’t helping anyone win in the playoffs this year.