If you are new to playing Head-to-Head fantasy baseball or if you are a veteran looking for some advice on how to dominate your league, you came to the right place. H2H leagues are personally my favorite because it combines the traditional “roto” aspect of fantasy baseball, while also furthering the competitive spirit by going against a single, rotating opponent every week. Instead of the champion being crowded at the end of the year by who has the most roto points, teams are fighting year long in the standings in hopes to earn a playoff spot and ultimately win a couple playoff matchups to bring home that coveted championship trophy. There are a few different variants to playing H2H leagues. You can play using point-based scoring, similar to how fantasy football works, or using categories like roto leagues. Categories is much more popular than points, but I still want to touch on both. For points leagues, hitters and pitchers earn fantasy points based off the statistics they accrue throughout the week and give their owner a raw total. The team with the most points at the end of the week gets a win while the other team gets a loss. Categories leagues typically use 5x5 scoring, which means 5 hitting categories and 5 pitching. For hitting they are typically batting average, runs, RBIs, HRs, and SBs. Pitching is usually ERA, WHIP, Wins, Saves, and Ks. Throughout the week both teams’ stats are tracked under each of the categories which you can get a single win, loss, or tie in each. So if you are winning six categories, losing three, and tied in one your score will appear as 6-3-1. The two variants to category scoring are Head-to-Head with a single win/loss, and H2H where each category counts as a win, loss, or tie individually. For example, winning 6-3-1 in week 1 can either make you 1-0, or it can make you 6-3-1 in the standings if you score using each category. I personally think that playing H2H Each Category is the ideal way to play as it combines tracking each category like roto leagues, with the competitiveness of playing a new opponent every week to keep things fresh. I know the following advice I offer may not be groundbreaking, but these are things that have helped me win many leagues that I wish to share with you so bear with me. Without further ado, here are my keys to dominating your H2H league.
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This is the end. Beautiful friend, the end. We're at the end of our 60 game sprint and I hope this finds you in the championship game. This is going to be a tough week to sift through to find viable streamers - both hitters and pitchers - that also have something to play for. Let's start with Mr. Happy himself, Drew Smyly (3% ESPN, 9% CBS). The Giants lefty has thrown 16 innings and has posted an eye-popping 39.1% strikeout rate. Granted, he's only gone a max of 4 IP in any start so far, but Smyly should help out in strikeouts and ratios. The Giants are still in the playoff fight and get a matchup at home against the Rockies tonight. Colorado currently has a 1.7% chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN and just placed slugger Nolan Arenado on the IL with a shoulder injury. Over the last 14 days, the Rockies have posted a team wOBA of .286 against lefties. During that time they've walked just 1.3% of the time. Check that out. Over 155 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, they've walked just 2 times. There might be one more play against the Rockies, but we'll get to that soon. Let's take a look at some other under the radar options to help you win your fantasy championship.
Down the stretch we come. Two weeks remaining of the MLB season and hopefully, this article finds you in the playoffs. I've tried to recommend relatively low-owned options all year long and that's not changing at this point. This week the juggernaut offense of the Miami Marlins gets eight games over the next six days. I jest a little by calling them juggernauts, but over the last 14 days, the Marlins have posted a team wOBA of .334 - good for 11th in the league. Their opponents in this stretch are the Red Sox (3) and the Nationals (5). While they do face Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, none of the other starting pitchers is anything to be scared of. Shoot, even Scherzer and Corbin have combined for a 4.07 ERA this year. After the starters, the Marlins bats will face bullpens that have posted 5.00+ ERAs on the year. So, who can help us this week from the Marlins? Since Jon Berti hit the IL, Corey Dickerson (25.8% ESPN, 35% CBS) has been leading off against right-handed pitchers. Jesus Aguilar (20.1% ESPN, 45% CBS) has quietly had a really nice rebound season. He's reduced his strikeout rate for the 4th consecutive year and can help you in every category other than stolen bases. Miguel Rojas (10.3% ESPN, 18% CBS) returned from an IL stint and has batted close to .400 and has chipped in a pair of steals over the last two weeks. If you're desperate at catcher, Jorge Alfaro (7.1% ESPN, 31%) has posted a decent batting average and has chipped in a pair of stolen bases. Finally, Garrett Cooper (10.2% ESPN, 22% CBS) provides multi-positional eligibility and has mashed three homers over the last two weeks. If there's a specific category you feel that your team is lacking, pick your favorite Marlin. Let's take a look at some other options to help you out down the stretch.
We've reached the home stretch. If your lineup needs a short shot in the arm heading down the stretch, look no further than Samwell Tarly lookalike, Rowdy Tellez (23.9% ESPN, 20% CBS). The Blue Jays' power lefty has been on a tear of late and has made some really impressive gains in the plate discipline department. Tellez has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half thanks to a lowered O-Swing rate and an increased Z-Contact rate. For the year, he sports a .383 wOBA and has managed to hit lefties pretty hard. That's kept his bat in the lineup full time. Just take a look at his Baseball Savant page, it's full of "Red". Tellez currently sits as the 14th ranked first-baseman on the ESPN Player Rater and has provided positive contributions in every category except stolen bases. I was very surprised to see Rowdy as low owned as he was, so scoop him up now and ride the hot hand! Let's take a look at some other pickups to help you down the stretch.
Pitching, like everything else this year, has been a literal S-Show. My TGFBI team got quickly dismantled thanks to David Price, Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber, and Joe Musgrove. That dismantlement forced me to turn to streaming early on. Now that we're a full five weeks into the season, it's clear what teams to pick on and what teams to avoid for streaming. For example, Indians versus righties avoid (.364 wOBA over the last 14 days), but those same bats against a lefty have posted a .272 wOBA on the year. Justin Dunn (7.5% ESPN, 10% CBS) has learned well that the Rangers are an awesome team to stream against. He's faced the Rangers twice already this year going 6 IP in each start and allowing just 2 earned runs. He didn't do anything exceedingly special. Dunn struck out 8 batters over those two starts, but just let the Rangers do what they do best - suck. As of this writing, Dunn gets a third lucky matchup with the Rangers on September 7th. A little bit of a look-ahead for us, but a great spot for us to attack if you're looking to improve your ratios or grab a streaming "W". Let's take a look at five more streamers this week to get you ahead of your competition.
The Mariners have been something of an s-show. On one hand, they've been an excellent source of cheap speed. On the other hand, Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford, Shed Long, and Tim Lopes are a combined 9/76 with 3 steals over the last 7 days. Checks notes again. Throws up in mouth. Tosses notes into trash. Praise the fantasy gods for the Mariners newest speed demon Sam Haggerty (.7% ESPN, 1% CBS). The Mariners' rookie batted second on Sunday and has a pair of steals and a homer in 20 plate appearances. He was never a power prospect in the minors but did steal 20+ bases in 2017 (49), 2018, and 2019. His speed kept his batting average decent due to a high BABIP. Haggerty is the proverbial shiny new speed toy in the Seattle lineup. Starting Friday, the Mariners get a four-game set against the Angels. The Angels have allowed the most stolen bases this year, so if you're desperate for steals, grab Haggerty now to get ahead of your opponents.
Over these next two weeks, we'll be focusing on late-round category targets. This week we'll touch on hitting categories and follow it up next week with pitching categories. While these will be geared towards the standard 5x5 categories, feel free to leave a comment if you have a more specialized category. For this exercise, I limited my player pool to hitters projected to get at least 350 plate appearances (with a handful of exceptions). I tried to stick with players being drafted beyond pick 175, but in my mind, the later a player's going, the better. With that in mind, let's get to it.
Last week in H2H Categories Strategy we discussed the merits of punting. This week, I want to talk about what I look for in hitters once we get past the early rounds - consistency. Since we play a game that resets every week, we want to roster players that will fluctuate less. Hot and cold streaks will happen even with the best players, but there are certain qualities we can look for in hitters that should minimize our risk. Growing up, my dad was the coach of my little league team. He would tell us, get on base and good things will happen. While it seems really simplistic, I still follow my dad's advice when I'm looking for consistent hitters - high contact rates and a low K-BB%. Basically, we're looking for players with good plate skills. These might not be the sexiest names in the draft, but grabbing a handful of these players in the mid to late rounds will provide your team with an ample floor. Without further ado, let's get to the list:
Head-to-head fantasy baseball encompasses some of my favorite parts of fantasy - rivalries, strategies, and ties. Okay, maybe not that last one, but overall, it's my favorite format to play. Like in roto leagues, you're focused on compiling stats in your scoring categories (homers, runs, steals, strikeouts, etc.), but your matchup resets each week and you're on to the next opponent. Punting is one of my favorite strategies in H2H Categories, mostly because it allows me to not pay a premium for saves or speed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a) punting both or, b) fully punting either, but I do recommend a version of punting that I feel gives you an advantage over your opponents. Here's our disclaimer - This is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. You know your league and your in-season management ability. If you're an owner who is excellent at scooping up new closers, then punting saves is a reasonable strategy to explore. These strategies are also not meant to be half-assed. If you're leaving your draft knowing you need to find steals on the wire, take the time to find those steals. Now that you've been warned, enter the punting dungeon......if you dare. The 2020 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!
Yo, yo, yo, it's Money Makin' Manhattan back again, or as the ladies call me Mmm... I just made the milkshake of Googling "mmm meaning." I made that milkshake even though I know what it means. I also will be using milkshake instead of mistake as a subtle protest to Apple's autocorrect. Siri, you made the milkshake of messing with me! I thought mmm just meant a sound when you're enjoying something. Only Google told me, "MMM means Expression of pleasure or contentment, My Main Men, Marjories and Maureens Meanderings, Manual Mind Melt, Mad Minute Monday." That then sent me on a two-hour journey around the internet trying to figure out what everything after 'contentment' means in that definition. Are Marjories and Maureens Meanderings nomadic feminist thoughts like, "I could use directions, but Waze's development team was 100% men and I'm not using it?" I have a theory that at some point in the future, likely when we're all dead and gone, people will no longer speak in words, but will only talk in acronyms. Yes, essentially, everyone will be like the little girl in Sleepless in Seattle that grew up to not shave her armpits on Transparent and Girls. Potatoes to chips, I'm gonna keep this Head-to-Head fantasy baseball draft strategy so succinct that it could be written on the back of a CVS receipt and still have room for a grocery list for a family of five. Assuming the family of five has shopped in the previous two months. If said family was in Breckenridge for a skication, and are just getting home before Rascal, Tommy and Clarafeen have to go back to school, then their shopping list might be too long to fit. Now if they're just getting back from Breckenridge and are bringing food with them in coolers that they accumulated over the skication, then there might still be enough room. More or less contingent on accumulated food and their level of hunger. Fangraphs has a formula to figure this out. It converts a CSV table into a CVS receipt. Quite revolutionary. I'm surprised Carson Cistulli didn't mention it in his 250,000 word Wikipedia entry. Whose Wikipedia page is longer Cistulli or Rosa Parks? I mean, all she did was refuse to switch seats, Carson hosts a podcast! Head-to-Head, or H2H, doesn’t change a lot for our 2016 fantasy baseball rankings. There are 300 billion suns in the Milky Way galaxy. There are 100s of billions of galaxies in the universe. There are at least 256,000 planets exactly like Earth. Yet, there’s only one Mike Trout. (Though Trike Mout on Planet Spoonerism is pretty good too. Not a first rounder though.) H2H doesn’t change that. The strategy for playing in the middle of the season in H2H leagues changes. You aren’t hoping Eric Hosmer hits 20 homers by October, but whether or not he’ll hit a homer on Sunday or if you should sit him for Jarrod Dyson to try to win steals. It’s all about the matchups, y’all! So you want to build a team that can match up well with any other team. (FYI, I’ve gone over this stuff before, but some of you might need a pine tree refresher hung from your rear view.) Anyway, here's my head-to-head draft strategy: