Head to Head Strategy

by Bob Radl, staff writer

Although fantasy baseball has many different scoring formats, one of the more popular formats is head to head competition. This article will give you some helpful hints and rules to follow during the upcoming baseball season.

The two most common scoring formats involve either head to head competition in various statistical categories or simply total fantasy points for the entire team. The most commonly used statistical categories are batting average, runs scored, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases for the hitters and wins, ERA, hit/walk ratio (WHIP), strikeouts and saves. The variances on these scoring formats are as numerous as there are leagues. However, most teams will normally play one team each week or will possibly play a certain number of teams within their respective league or division that week.

If you can keep the following guidelines in mind, you should be assured of a successful season:

Understand the Rules/Scoring System. I have always found that one of the most common mistakes for fantasy players to make is to not understand the rules or scoring methods used in their league. Be sure to read the rules on the scoring systems closely! My experience has shown that most scoring systems favor either pitchers or hitters. Either the pitchers or the hitters will probably carry more weight in the scoring system. When in doubt, go back and read the scoring rules a second or third time.

Draft Well. There is no substitute for a solid draft. Repeat there is no substitute for a solid draft. Your first several rounds should be used on quality players that have a history of producing year in and year out. Also, be aware that certain positions are harder to fill than others in many drafts. First Base and Outfield are generally the deepest positions in the draft while your middle infield positions such as shortstop or second, and catcher have much less depth. The drop off in talent at these positions can be enormous. There are blocks of talent at each position. A manager needs to be aware of these blocks of talent when drafting their teams. You need to draft a couple of the better starters at some point as most leagues will require you to use from four to six starters each week. If you are too weak at any one position, this will cause problems for the remainder of the fantasy season. Pity the poor manager who watches his staff get rocked week in and week out.

Don't Concede a Category. Far too many fantasy players will concede one category in head to head competition where statistical categories are involved. Fantasy players will often concede a category such as stolen bases or saves. This means that they are often down 2-0 before the week starts. If a manager does this, he will have to win almost all of the remaining categories to earn a victory for the week. In short, be sure to have balance on the team if you are involved in a head to head competition involving categories. I have found that this is not always as important in fantasy contests involving total points as a manager can absorb a bad performance from or two players while remaining competitive.

Watch Pitching Rotations. If your league allows you to rotate your pitchers in and out each week, the astute manager will be sure to rotate pitchers into the starting lineup with double starts for the week. The advantage of two starts from a starting pitcher cannot be emphasized enough as you will have a chance to gain an extra win plus several more strike outs from your starters.

Take Advantage of the Schedule. The Major League Baseball schedule, like that of Professional Basketball, has its imbalances where some teams will play more games than others in a given week. This is magnified even more when teams have to play double headers later in the season to make up games that were rained out earlier in the season. Most scoring systems run from Monday through Sunday. It is possible to take advantage of the schedule to maximize the number of games that you can get from your position players. Remember, ABs equal production in fantasy baseball!! However, I would not advocate trying to squeeze an extra game out a lesser player over a superior performer.

Consider Ballparks/Teams. Certain major league teams, such as the Rockies, the Indians, the Mariners and the Yankees, are known for their offensive production. The Boston Red Sox are also very good hitters, especially at cozy Fenway Park. Players on good hitting teams reap the benefit of having other good hitters both in front of them and behind them in the lineup. This increases the likelihood of seeing good pitches to hit and makes it harder to pitch around them. When in doubt, draft a hitter from a good hitting team that produces runs. As a general rule, National League pitchers will outperform their American League counterparts, as they do not have a face DHs. It is also a good idea to avoid starting your pitchers when they are going to pitch at Coors Field.

Avoid Injury Prone Players. Major League Baseball has its share of athletes that simply cannot stay healthy for a full season. I strongly advocate not having too many of these players on our team or else you may have the majority of your roster on the DL. A pitcher coming back from serious arm surgery should be looked at closely. It is not uncommon for a pitcher to take almost two seasons to fully recover his form after a serious surgery.

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