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H2H Categories vs. Points Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)

by Dan Harris | @danharris80 | Featured Writer
Jan 23, 2021

Although fantasy football settings have evolved significantly in recent years, the basic tenors of the game remain the same. Sure, you might throw in additional points-per-reception for tight ends, add a superflex position, or even give points per first down. But if you’ve ever played fantasy football in any format, then the nuances of various scoring systems aren’t all that difficult to understand.

But baseball is another story. You’ve got tons of potential stat categories and several different formats, and your approach to each type of league varies. A batter’s strikeout vs. a groundout may be the difference between you winning or losing a fantasy baseball matchup. Or it may be entirely irrelevant. It all depends on your format.

We’ve already separately discussed the basics of the two head-to-head formats – H2H points and H2H categories. And Josh Shepardson has broken down how to approach H2H Categories vs. Rotisserie Leagues. But it’s worth specifically comparing H2H points and H2H categories formats and how your strategies for drafting in each one differs from the other.

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Depth and safety are much more important in categories leagues

Because both categories and points formats involve trying to beat just a single opponent each week, streaming comes into play far more in either format than in rotisserie leagues. But in categories leagues, streaming is much more critical to your success. And that means that drafting depth is crucial.

In points leagues, your goal is to accumulate as many stats as possible each week. So, although streaming players, especially pitchers, comes into play, it’s an entirely different story in categories leagues, where you are trying to win specific statistical categories against your opponent, not merely tally the most points.

In a categories league, if you normally start three closers but your opponent is punting saves, then you’ll only want to start one closer and activate your bench starting pitchers. Similarly, if you own several stolen base threats but your opponent has none, then it’s time to swap out most of your steals players for power bats.

With a points league, your opponent’s roster doesn’t matter. But the ability to mix and match depending on your opponent’s lineup is critical in a categories league. That means drafting a deep roster with a bench that can easily plug holes in pretty much any category is a must.

In other words, while most fantasy managers strive for the home run play on their benches, that’s not nearly as important in categories leagues. Don’t worry quite as much about the high-ceiling, low-floor options. Just have plenty of players who can easily start for you in the right matchup.

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Volume for pitchers matters in points leagues, but less so in categories leagues

In points leagues, so long as your starting pitcher isn’t getting completely destroyed, he’s giving you loads of value each time out on the mound. With points given for innings pitched, even the most mediocre starter can be a significant contributor to your team each week. Relievers are greatly devalued in that format because of their lack of innings, and starters who qualify as relievers get a huge boost.

But in categories leagues, it doesn’t quite work that way. First, you’ll obviously want to compete in saves each week if you can, so the starters who qualify as relievers aren’t quite as valuable. But second, more often than not, you’ll find yourself trying to LIMIT the number of starts you have, throwing only the truly safe starters with high-quality relievers instead. With that strategy, you can usually nearly guarantee yourself a win in ERA, WHIP, and saves, and because wins are so fickle, there’s always a chance you squeak out that category, too.

So, pitchers who are devalued in points and rotisserie formats because of potential innings limits are far more valuable in categories leagues. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger a bit early.

Balanced rosters matter in categories leagues, but not points leagues

Although there are differences in strategy between rotisserie leagues and head-to-head categories leagues, you’re generally approaching a draft in the same way. You want to build a balanced roster that should, for the most part, be able to compete in every category each week.

But with points leagues, it’s just about getting as many points as possible. It doesn’t matter if you get your points by hitting 70 home runs in a week or because you found your way to 15 wins. Points are points. So, you can eschew saves or steals or whatever you want to do in a points league draft, and there will be no consequences.

For lack of a better way to say it, you can legitimately go “best player available” in a points league. Unfettered. Without reservation. But in a categories league, you need to think about how you’ll be competing in every category each week.

Real skills matter more in points leagues

In categories leagues, again, you’re likely playing with the same artificial stat categories that you’d use in rotisserie leagues. But in points leagues, batters earn points for walks and lose points for strikeouts. Triples are worth more than doubles and innings matter.

In other words, in points leagues, you need to consider a player’s real-world skill a bit more. Those pitchers who can throw 200 innings and those batters with great walk-to-strikeout ratios can make a huge impact in those leagues.  Basically, if any sabermetrician plays fantasy baseball, he or she is probably playing in a points league.

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Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.

Dan Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyPros. For more from Dan, check out his archive or follow him on Twitter at @danharris80.