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 5×5 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.

 

1. Know Your League 

This one especially may seem really simple and self-explanatory but it is still essential, especially for rookie H2H owners. Finding out whether it is Points, H2H Single Win, or H2H Each Category is the best place to start. From that go check out the scoring system to find out how many points each statistic is worth, or check out which categories it tracks if it differs from standard 5×5.  Make sure you check out the roster settings to know how many players at each position you will need to complete your squad. For example, does your league use corner and middle infielders as well? You will also want to check and see if your league has daily or weekly roster lock times. Weekly rosters require a bit more preparation and checking out the matchups but it shouldn’t make a big difference. Aside from that, check out the rules regarding waivers and how many moves you can make each matchup. Make sure you understand everything about your league before draft day.

If you are in an existing H2H league, check out your draft from the year prior to see which picks worked out for you and which ones did not pan out so well. Additionally, use this time to check out how the other owners of your league drafted. Check out the tendencies of each owner whether it be when they select starting pitchers, or what categories they place the most emphasis on. This is what I mean by know your league. You know your league better than I do, and looking at the league’s history if available is an essential tool to get to know your opponents better.

 

2. Don’t Over-invest in Starting Pitching

Starting pitchers are essential to succeeding in fantasy, but I see too many people over-invest on them in the first few rounds. Early on, I’d much rather take a solid hitter that I know will play 5 or so games a week as opposed to someone who will help my team ONCE a week, or sometimes twice. Additionally, pitchers are much more susceptible to injury than position players and thus will be on the DL or miss games more often than hitters usually. Aside from injuries, numbers like ERA and wins have shown to have quite a bit of year-to-year variance and is part of the reason why projecting pitchers is so difficult. Instead, check out numbers like strikeout and walk rates, and metrics like fielding-independent pitching (FIP) and swinging strike rate to evaluate pitchers.

I am a firm believer that there is lots of solid value in the middle rounds for SP. I like to load up on hitters primarily and usually only end up with two pitchers after the first 7 or so rounds. In the middle rounds, I like to focus on pitchers in pitching friendly ballparks, on teams with a productive offense, high strikeout rates, and pitchers in the NL. I also find that it is much easier to trade for pitchers as the year goes on than it is to trade for quality hitters.

 

3. Position Scarcity is (mostly) a Myth!

Every year you will see owners scrambling and reaching on certain players while citing that the given position is “shallow” this year. You typically hear this when people are talking about middle infielders and catchers, but I’ve heard people claim nearly every other position is shallow at some point in time. Sure, there may be a drop-off from the top guys to the next tier but that is also the case with every single position.

People are just used to the notion that shortstops and second basemen typically aren’t great offensively and that you need to pick one early or else you’ll miss out. Owners let old stigmas carry over year after year, even though there are middle infielders that are solid hitters available later on too. I do think that the catcher position can seem scarce given the amount of rest catchers get compared to the other positional players. However, I do not think it is a reason to try to snag one several rounds before where they are going. The waiver wire usually produces a few starter-worthy options for each position so make sure you are keeping track of that.

 

4. But Multi-Position Eligible Players are Valuable 

Players that have multi-positional eligibility have always had a special place in my heart, and on my rosters. Guys like Jose Ramirez (OF, 2B, 3B) who are studs offensively that can play multiple positions can be a huge difference maker. It helps you maximize the number of games you get out of your hitters as well as allows you to seamlessly patch up your lineup when injuries come your way. Additionally, drafting someone like Jose Ramirez who you know can play three different positions allows your team to have incredible flexibility as the draft goes on. This will help ensure that you don’t reach due to that darn positional scarcity myth since you now have a bigger pool of players to choose from in the middle rounds.

So go check out what positions each player is eligible for this upcoming draft, as it varies site to site. This year, you can draft Anthony Rizzo and plug him in as your second baseman. This would allow you to draft another first baseman to plug in at 1B, thus essentially having two first-basemen in your lineup.

 

5. Don’t “Punt” Categories 

I am a believer that you should never under any circumstances completely “punt” or purposefully ignore any category. The most common examples are owners that neglect stolen bases, or go with all starting pitchers and ignore trying to win saves. While in theory you could still build a championship team while punting categories, I never think it is a good idea to neglect any of them. You are essentially giving your opponent a free category every week and makes it that much harder for you to pull out a win.

With that being said, I don’t think you should go all-in for any one category either. While Billy Hamilton will steal many bases this year, you should not be overpaying for those steals. He is essentially a one-category contributor that forces you to make up for his lack of offensive ability elsewhere. Don’t give up on any categories, but don’t overpay or over emphasize them either.

Building the most balanced team possible will give you the best shot to win week in and week out, and that is the name of the game in H2H leagues.

 

 

 
  1. Llango says:
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    Good Article.
    Im in a H2H keeper league. 12 teams. we keep 10 guys.

    i think i balanced my team out a bit – what are your thoughts?
    Bellinger
    Moncada
    Trea
    Sano
    N.Cruz
    Cespedes
    I.Happ
    Mazara
    R.ray
    A. Reyes

    My other options are M.taylor, Honeywell, Suarez, Arcia

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Llango: I apologize for just getting back to you now. But I definitely think your team has a solid core of players that you kept. Sano’s situation is obviously up in the air but it is what it is. I like Mazara even though he struggles against Lefties. All in all, once you add some more pitching in the draft I think that team shapes up nicely.

  2. Brew ball says:
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    In a h2h 5×6 that adds OPS, do do prioritize hitting more because there is an extra hitting cat? Thanks.

    • Darek says:
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      @Brew ball:

      I’m in a league exactly like that and I don’t know that it prioritizes hitting in general even more, but it definitely makes steals less important. With 6×6 OPS, power guys(who already contribute in 2 categories with HR and RBI) give you a leg up in a third category. I would not target guys like Gordon or Hamilton where they typically go. A speed guy on the bench can be helpful if steals are coming down to the wire and you have good leads in the other cats.

      • Yost

        Yost says:
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        @Woolly the Mammoth: In general, I like to prioritize hitting but that extra category would definitely incline me to go even heavier on hitting. I’m in a 6×5 with OPS and usually go straight hitters my first 6 picks or so and fill out the pitching in the middle rounds. And like he mentioned, it definitely adds value to the guys that are better hitters/ have more power as opposed to guys that just get hits and steal bases.

  3. Chucky says:
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    Your scaring the beejezuz out of me here. H2H 12 team Dynasty, 10 keepers no contracts, 6×6 OBP, Holds. Max, Sale, Nola, Castillo and Godley. RULE#2… Can I jettison any of the aforementioned 5 for the likes of Ian Happ, G Polanco, Haniger, Didi or Vlad?

    • Reganzap says:
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      @Chucky:
      No, but don’t draft another SP till Bartolo Colon in the 40th round.

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Chucky: Sorry to scare you, but you should end up just fine! It is never a terrible thing to have stud pitchers, as long as you make sure you don’t neglect hitting. Especially since it is a dynasty league and you can add hitters ever year via the draft, while you know those aces wouldn’t be up for grabs. You can definitely dominate with that staff, and compete in the hitting categories depending on who you have, and who you add in the draft. You could try to make a move for Haniger or someone else mentioned but don’t panic!

  4. Woolly the Mammoth says:
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    My H2H league is a 10 team 6×6 (OPS and Holds). We keep twenty forever. There are six starting slots for relievers. Starting pitching is limited to nine starts per week. I have always struggled with figuring out the best strategy in regards to saves and holds. I think starters and offensive players contribute more than relievers in this format, so I have decided to go all in on holds, since non-closers are cheaper than closers. My logic is that if I start six set up guys, I will almost always win holds. Of course I will definitely lose saves, but it allows me to focus my team on offensive players and starters. What are you’re thoughts on this strategy? Any thoughts on a better approach given the league format?

    • Darek says:
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      @Woolly the Mammoth:

      I think it’s a good strategy- saves are just one category and you are laying claim to another. MR can often help more with ratios, too, and are fungible if you need there roster spot for a quick fix. You can always pick up another one.

      • Utah Green Sox says:
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        @Darek: If you get the best holds pitchers, a lot will become closers and get you saves by the end of the year too.
        eg: Last year I drafted Rivero and Knebel pretty late – so by the end of the year holds were hard to come by.

        Smokey is normally pretty ace for these rankings

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Woolly the Mammoth: Not too too familiar with holds leagues and i know they can be kind of hard to predict, but then again saves have alot of outside factors as well. And holds are much much cheaper than holds. I think this could be a good strategy since you are giving yourself the opportunity for lots of holds by pursuing those set=up men. And like Utah Green Sox mentioned, there is a high probability that some of your set-up men will become closers by the end of the year since there is quite a lot of turnover.

  5. Utah Green Sox says:
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    With the playoff element of H2H, are there any players that get a significant boost in value in this format?

    IE: They peek at the right time of the year and win you playoffs.

    eg: Dozier can be a second half player. Also Encarnacion?

    • Darek says:
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      @Utah Green Sox:
      I’m skeptical that there are true first half and second half players. I saw a bit in some publication that looked at that statistically and didn’t need find it to be true. That said there are players that are streaky (strikeout prone guys) and you could be riding a hot or cold streak at a critical time. Hard to predict though.

      One thing that that you can take advantage of strategically is how rookie and young pitchers get shut down or are on an inning limit. I tend to avoid rookie or guys I think might get shut down. Plus they are more likely to get skipped and often have only have a few 2 start weeks, which are gold in this format.

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Utah Green Sox: Great point, and I do believe there is some truth to looking at first/second half splits. Pitchers have the advantage in the beginning of the year so I think that is why we see hitters heat up as the year goes on. In general, you want to add the hitters you know are consistent and will give you production all year long. For example, Jake Lamb continually looks like a surefire stud in the first half, and then typically loses steam after the All Star Break. On the flip side, guys like Encarnacion that you mentioned and Kris Bryant someone disappointed early on and had great finishes that surely helped those in a playoff race. Francisco Lindor and Dee Gordon are a couple players that come to mind that had great second halfs last year which may continue. In general, younger hitters and especially pitchers I get cautious of since their bodies may not be used to a full MLB season and begin to break down.

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Utah Green Sox: Forgot to include Votto, he is probably THE best 2nd half hitter especially in leagues that include OBP

  6. Bterry says:
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    I really like hedging a category like saves or sb in my H2H league. One year I had dee and b ham and won it all by being able to have backups for those two who had a lot of power, and when I was up by 3 sb on wed I would sit b ham and dee for their power subs. This is when b ham and see didn’t cost you a 3rd and a 6th tho. But it worked like a charm. I also like being able to roster 5/6 closers and dominate that category every week. It also helped win me a couple champs. I’ve always drafted my first pitcher around the 7th and then went pitcher heavy after the 12th and it seemed to work out. My current 4 h2h keepers in my long term keeper are:
    Trout
    Arenado
    Sanchez
    B ham

    I could keep Hoskins over b ham but I really like having sb on lock. First time I’ve kept b ham this early tho. Is b ham in the 4th in a h2h just ridiculous even if you are trying to hedge the sb category?

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Bterry: If that has helped you win championships before then you definitely can continue to hedge steals if you’d like. I’m here to offer my thoughts, but you seem to know how to win while using that strategy. Hamilton just isn’t a great hitter and I fear that he’ll reach a point where he won’t get on base enough for the steals to make that much of a difference. Given the downward trend of SB across the league plus the availability of power elsewhere, I can definitely see how you made it work before. I personally think him in the 4th is definitely too much of a reach and prefer Hoskins, but you already have a solid core of power out of Trout Arenado and Sanchez.

      • Bterry says:
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        @Yost: yea. It’s getting hard to justify b ham with his bat skills.

      • Bterry says:
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        @Yost: I’m also a little worried b ham will steal 80+ one of these years and I won’t have been around for the wait. I dunno about you, but a 5sb game looks better than a 3 hr game to me. Weird. I know. Lol.

        • Yost

          Yost says:
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          @Bterry: That’s the only scary thing lol. The reason I can’t get behind him is because his OBP does not go above .300. However like you said, if he does learn to get more hits/on base more…look out

  7. Mikey says:
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    I play in a NL only $260 Auction Weekly H2H Points League

    With that being said, should I trade my J. Lamb $5, C. Hernandez $3 and J. Bour $8 For N. Arenado $42?

    My roster:

    Goldy-$49
    K. Marte $3
    D. Peralta $3
    J. Pederson $11 (I’ll likely drop and take $6 penalty as he was under contract)
    G. Holland $7 (only if the greedy fucker and his agent sign on an NL team before draft)

    Because I need so much in the draft I’m not sure I should pull the trigger.

    I appreciate you.

  8. Yost

    Yost says:
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    Not too much familiarity with NL/AL auction leagues so I may not understand how exactly how much taking on that value would limit you. With that being said, adding Arenado to your team with Goldy especially in an NL only league seems like a very intimidating team to face. Given they’d cost $91 for just those two players, they really are 2 of the elite hitters in the league. I’d say check out lists with auction values to see what players you’d be looking at to finish off the rest of your team, but I personally prefer having a couple studs and figuring out the rest as it goes.

  9. Bterry says:
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    Do you tend to look at what the rest of the league is doing more in h2h vs roto? I feel like the “zig when they zag” is more effective on a week to week basis is more effective than over a season long. My h2h league tends to go pitching heavy and it makes me want to go hitter heavy every year. Last year it seemed to bit me pretty hard tho. Take more sp early this year or stick to what’s worked in the past?

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @Bterry: Yes for sure. In H2H I think it is crucial to know the players on the rest of the teams. When you play who you play can be a big factor. Knowing the teams around the league will allow you to see their strengths/weaknesses and allow you to take advantage of them. Since they go pitching heavy, you could go hitter heavy like you said since there will be batters lingering longer than they wouldn’t otherwise. If you’d like to take pitching a little earlier, I’d say go for it but make sure you don’t take a pitcher just for the sake of taking a pitcher. But the pool will be going much quicker if your league is pitcher heavy so find a few pitchers in each round that should be available. If possible, look at the draft history to see when the pitching runs happen in the draft.

      • Bterry says:
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        @Yost: good call. Didn’t even think about looking at the draft history to see when typical runs occur. Def going to do that as part of my prep from now on.

        • Yost

          Yost says:
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          @Bterry: yeah for sure I do it quite often. Especially if the same people have been in the league for a few years. Can really help you map out when the best time to take pitchers are.

  10. T6 says:
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    Who are some of the pitchers Yu like in the middle rounds?

    • Yost

      Yost says:
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      @T6: Around round 6/7 I really like Nola and Quintana. Rounds 8-11 I’m looking to target guys like Berrios, Luke Weaver, and Zach Godley. Luis Castillo another guy who is going a little later who could have a huuge year.

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