There are a number of different formats to play in fantasy baseball these days, but an old favorite for many players is the head-to-head league. Let’s do a primer here on head-to-head points leagues.
A head-to-head points league closely resembles a weekly fantasy football league. You earn and lose points for actual game events. At the end of the week, you have played another team, and you will either win the week or lose the week. It’s really simple: whoever has the most points, wins.
Pitchers have more value here simply because they score the most points. Points are points and one doesn’t need to be concerned about positional scarcity. This is one format where having a deep bench of pitchers will help you more than a deep roster of extra hitters.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
H2H Points League Strategy
Let’s jump in and look at some general strategy ideas.
Know the scoring format.
I know you will read this in every strategy piece, but it never ceases to shock me how many people do not know the ins and outs of the scoring format in the leagues they choose to be in. At the risk of sounding flabbergasted, know the categories and the point values for each. Do not assume the scoring system. I have a friend playing in a league that gives four points for a home run… and six points for a hit by pitch! Granted, you’re not going to extensively research players by HBP, most likely, but this illustrates the point: never assume the scoring is standard. Always look at it.
Also, this seems obvious, but know how many teams are in your league; the difference in strategy between a 12-team and 15-team league is palpable. People often reach out and neglect to tell you the format and structure of the league. It is critical to know this information if you want to compete for titles.
With hitters, my advice is to try and draft as much power as you can, as this strategy would have the highest impact on your ability to accumulate points in most leagues. Hitters can stack points across a variety of categories. For example, a home run may count as four points, with a point for RBI, and a point for runs, etc. But also make sure you look at things like strikeout and walk rates. In most leagues, hitters lose points for strikeouts but also gain points for walks. So, while a player like Kyle Schwarber is appealing due to his 40+ home runs, you must weigh out the fact he will whiff upwards of 200 times when you think about selecting him for your team. Schwarber also walked 86 times, so you see the point of the exercise. You want to look for hitters that get on base frequently while limiting their strikeouts.
Another important thing to consider for me: look primarily at those hitters in the top half of lineups. They get more at-bats, and historically, the best run producers hit in lineup slots one through five. Extra plate appearances could invariably lead to more points. And that is what the game is all about here.
Personally, I think the best strategy is to draft hitters in the top half of lineups that cover a broad swath of production. If other players in your league are gobbling up the ace pitchers, this could represent a buying opportunity for you to grab a core of outstanding hitters.
Which Pitchers to Target
With pitchers, high strikeouts and innings volumes will be your best friends. That seems to go without saying. Getting a solid ace or two will give you a jump on several areas like ratios and strikeouts. Wins are finicky and dependent on so many factors, which is why many in the industry will suggest you draft “skills” and not statistics. An underutilized weapon in points leagues is the number three or four starter that eats innings. We used to try and target pitchers who would give us mostly worry-free innings and try to grab those pitchers who would throw 200 innings. Only eight starting pitchers hit the 200-inning mark in 2022. Those days are gone for most pitchers.
As the game has changed in recent years, so has our attitude toward what constitutes an “innings eater.” Not only will you get the points offered for innings, but you also stand a better chance at grabbing the ever-elusive win and maybe a few more strikeouts. I think targeting pitchers in the 150-160 innings range could yield good results for you. Realistically you may only get one or two of the 200-inning pitchers and will need to fill in behind that. I think of pitchers like Carlos Carrasco and Marcus Stroman that are almost always undervalued in points leagues. Draft a high volume of pitchers.
Punt the Pen?
This is hard for me to write, as I cover bullpens for Fantrax, but I would not waste much draft capital on closers. They just don’t pitch enough in a week to make a huge difference to your bottom line, which is winning the week. It’s very realistic that a closer might only get one or two innings per week and might only get a save chance or two. Thus, the value of a closer in head-to-head points leagues diminishes as compared to other formats.
If you have an RP slot or two that you need to fill, my recommendation would be to look for pitchers that have an RP designation but may be starting or in a multiple-inning weapon role. Spencer Strider is pure gold in this regard, but guys like Andres Munoz, Garrett Whitlock, and Jhoan Duran, who will pitch several innings per week and rack up strikeouts, and help with ratio controls, could potentially be a big help here as well. Maybe you draft one solid closer and pair him with one of these higher-leverage pitchers or find a player with an RP designation that is actually filling a starting role. The goal is to accumulate the highest amount of points each week.
My biggest point in all of this, and if you take nothing else from my prattling here, is do not worry about drafting a balanced roster at all. Accumulate stats. It’s a totally different game here than what you might be used to in a roto format. Those rules of balance don’t apply here. Accumulate stats. Find production wherever you can.
As always, my DMs are always open if I can help you in any way. My Twitter handle is @mdrc0508.
What are your favorite strategies for H2H Points Leagues? Share your knowledge in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!