Roto vs. H2H: How Does Your Strategy Change? (Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Feb 10, 2018

Drafting players who only specialize in one-category, like Billy Hamilton, is a recipe of disaster in roto leagues

While roto and head-to-head (H2H) leagues often utilize the same 5×5 stats, there are strategic differences between the two. One difference that immediately comes to mind relates to punting. Recently, I discussed punting categories, and I’d never advise punting in roto formats.

However, as I note in the linked piece, it is a solid strategy in H2H formats. That’s the most apparent strategic difference between the two most popular fantasy baseball formats, but the differences don’t end there.

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Roto Strategy

As a general rule of thumb, I strongly advise drafting for balance in roto formats. This essentially lines up with the idea of not punting any categories. Taking it a step further, it’s essential to have end-of-the-year statistical benchmarks in mind at the draft.

If you play in the same league annually, the best way to set benchmarks is to look at statistical totals from the previous year. You don’t need to aim to win every category, that’s not a realistic goal.

You should, however, understand how many points overall were required to win the league. From there, you can set rough goals for statistical totals by category.

It’s not imperative that your drafted roster projects to hit each of your statistical goals, but having a strong foundation out of the chute is ideal. Furthermore, if certain statistics appear to be overvalued at draft time, it’s better to come out of the draft a little light in those categories and make the necessary moves to bolster those stats during the year than to overpay in the draft. In other words, the season starts with the draft, but it doesn’t end there.

Personally, I prefer to construct a roster with as many across-the-board contributors as possible. There are many ways to get to your target goals, but rostering one-trick ponies like Billy Hamilton and banking on them to do the bulk of the heavy lifting for a category, in Hamilton’s case stolen bases, is risky. Sticking with Hamilton as an example, if he is injured and misses time — or he plays through a soft tissue injury and doesn’t attempt to steal as many bases as he would when completely healthy — your roster is left with a glaring hole in that category.

If, instead, your roster features numerous players who chip in stolen bases, filling an injured player’s void — or at least softening the blow — via free agency or trade is much easier. It’s entirely possible to win leagues with category-dominant players carrying category non-contributors, but it’s a more volatile approach to winning a championship.

H2H Strategy

My aversion to rostering one-trick ponies in roto leagues doesn’t extend to H2H formats. Hamilton can single-handedly win stolen bases in a given week in H2H leagues, and that has a great deal of value. Perhaps equally important, though, if the same hypothetical injury/playing injured situation comes to fruition for gamers who roster him in H2H leagues, gamers don’t necessarily have to fill his gaping stolen-base void.

Instead, gamers can opt to add a free agent who will enhance their odds of winning another category and punt stolen bases during Hamilton’s absence. Simply put, H2H allows for more in-season roster flexibility since the goal is to “get to the dance,” so to speak, with a roster capable of surviving and advancing through the postseason to a championship.

Much like in reality, teams can — and should, frankly — be constructed with the end-goal in mind. Roto is a marathon, and H2H is an end-of-the-season sprint. Obviously, you can’t win a championship if you don’t qualify for the postseason, but unless you’re in a money league with financial incentives tied to the regular season, the goal should be to build a team capable of reaching the fantasy postseason and winning the majority of H2H categories when there.

With that in mind, I’m more apt to suggest stashing in H2H leagues than in roto formats. I don’t specifically say stashing prospects, because stashing injured players who project to play down the stretch can have value, too. Using a prospect from last year as an example, gamers who were forward thinking and stashed Rhys Hoskins were treated to helpful power numbers at the end of the year.

If you prefer an injured stash example from last year, those who stashed Garrett Richards on their disabled list got a lift from his 23.0 innings of 2.74 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in five September starts. In the grand scheme of things, Hoskins’ and Richards’ numbers were a drop in the bucket for roto totals, but their work moved the needle in H2H leagues.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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