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Tips to Dominate Your Head-to-Head Points League Draft (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jan 24, 2019

Joey Votto’s high walk rate improves his value in head-to-head points formats.

Over recent years, head-to-head points leagues have become an increasingly popular option within the fantasy baseball community. One of the aspects that makes fantasy football so appealing to a mass audience is its simplicity and the ability to take on a leaguemate.

This is basically fantasy football scoring transferred over to baseball, and it’s become a personal favorite as far as formats go.

I get the traditional, old-school players who are roto fans through and through, and it’s admittedly the best format to crown a true champion. Points and category leagues leave a lot up to luck in the playoffs, but it’s also the best format to keep your leaguemates involved and allow some smack talk each week.

If you’re looking to get into a points league, or if you’ve played in one before but are looking to strengthen your game, here are some tips to help you throughout the season.

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Know Your Settings
This subhead could and should be used for any league advice guide you look at this year. It seems obvious, but it’s an often overlooked part of your league. Where roto and category leagues typically have the same 5×5 settings, they can change a bit with the addition of saves-plus-holds, quality starts instead of wins, and OBP instead of AVG. With points leagues, though, the settings can change drastically.

Your league may have the same categories to get you points, but the point values really tend to differ. There are some scoring formats where a steal is worth two points, and others where it’s just one. Certain scoring systems will actually give you negative points for each at-bat, while others will assign points per out instead of points per inning pitched. Adjusting too much for OBP instead of AVG can be a mistake, but adjusting your rankings and strategy based off your scoring system really makes all the difference in points leagues.

Make Your Call on Pitchers
The biggest flaw of points leagues is that starting pitchers are, by far, the most valuable asset. You can tinker with the scoring to help neutralize this, but even then, starting pitchers will typically score the most points. On a given start, you’re looking at 25-30 points from a strong outing and about 16-24 on a good, but not great start. You’re hoping that your hitters will hit the 20-point mark each week for them to stay rostered.

With this setup, starters tend to go earlier and earlier in fantasy drafts with points scoring. While you should always be ready to adjust your draft strategy on the fly, you should go into points drafts with a basic idea of how you want to approach the position.

There are two main thoughts behind starters in points leagues. The first is grabbing the top-tier options at the position—passing over hitters that would be considered more valuable in other formats-and take the high-point volume per start they offer. The other thought is zigging where others zag and loading up on hitters to gain value by scooping up the passed-over bats.

Both strategies can work, but you need to know the risks.

In the first strategy, you can find yourself with a lineup that’s lacking by passing over position players early in the draft. There aren’t as many lineup spots to fill in traditional points leagues, but the drop-off is still noticeable. The bigger risk, though, is that you’re trusting pitchers to stay healthy. Pitchers are more likely than hitters to get injured by every measure. You’re adding more inherited risk on to your roster by loading up on upper-tier arms this way. If they stay relatively healthy, congrats. It’s going to be a lot easier to win your league.

On the flip side, if you prefer to take hitters and wait on pitching, you could find yourself at a distinct disadvantage in the playoffs. Your team is more built for the regular season than the postseason, and if you face a team that has better, healthy arms in the playoffs, you will be in an uphill battle from the matchup’s first pitch.

Utilize Streaming
There are numerous two-start pitcher articles that hit fantasy sites each week, giving readers a projected list of pitchers who will take the bump more than once in the upcoming seven days. For roto leagues, you need to carefully consider if you want to use an average or below-average pitcher for the extra start, as they can hurt your ratios.

In points leagues, though, you are able to consider pitchers that you wouldn’t typically expect to roster in traditional leagues. It’s why I prefer a basic templated strategy of waiting on pitching and loading up on hitters with three of my first four picks. Utilizing streamer options who are getting two starts is key to this strategy, and unlike roto leagues, they are unlikely to hurt you or even give you negative points in bad starts.

Maximize Your Bench Spots
Since pitchers are the de facto kings of points leagues, I will rarely carry a bench bat. You don’t have corner and middle-infield positions to fill, and points leagues often only require three outfielders to start at a time. Use your bench spots, no matter if it’s three or five, on extra starters.

One of those spots should be a dedicated streaming spot. Look to fill it with a good two-start option for the upcoming week or two.

Identify the Differences
This is where using site-provided ADP can cause problems during your draft. Typically, the site’s ADP reflects roto or categories leagues. Before starting your draft, you need to manually adjust rankings to fit your league settings. Relievers and speed threats aren’t typically as valuable in points leagues, so move them down. Guys like Starling Marte, Trea Turner, and Victor Robles should all see a value decrease. Meanwhile, guys like Joey Votto, Carlos Santana, and Jake Bauers see an increase in production because of their walks.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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