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H2H Points League Strategy Primer

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Spring Training has finally started, the hot stove is steaming, and draft season is fully underway!

Whether you are a Head-To-Head Points veteran or are interested in trying the format for the first time, there are essential preparations to be done prior to your drafts and the season.

My goal here is to outline the traditional format scoring while offering some thoughts on draft strategy that may help newcomers and inspire different strategies for those who are already familiar with the format.

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Head-To-Head Points Format Breakdown

Hitting

Single: 1 point
Double: 2 points
Triple: 3 points
Home Run: 4 points
Walk: 1 point
Hit By Pitch: 1 point
Strikeout: -.5 or -1 point
Run Scored: 1 point
RBI: 1 point
Stolen Base: 2 points
Caught Stealing: -1 point

Pitching

Inning Pitched: 3 points
Hit Allowed: -1 point
Walk Allowed: -1 point
Hit Batsman: -1 point
Earned Run: -1 point
Strikeout: 1 point
Win: 5 or 7 points
Quality Start: 3 points
Loss: -3 or -5 points
Save: 5 or 7 points

At RotoBaller, we offer updated points league rankings, available by clicking here.

 

Strategy Primer #1: Know Your Scoring

This may seem obvious, but understanding the nuances of your league’s scoring is pivotal to capitalizing on potential value during your drafts. For reference, the top scores for starting pitchers in leagues following this format range from high 500s to high 600s, and the top scores for hitters range from 500 to low 600s. As such, pitchers are more valuable in general in points leagues. ADP for starting pitchers will be higher in points leagues in general compared to roto/category leagues, and the proportion of early-round picks used for pitchers will be higher. These trends will hold true across head-to-head points leagues, but even slight differences can have an impact on players’ values, so it is important to be aware of them prior to your drafts. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Hitters

Two of the more important scoring options for hitters are how much they are punished for striking out and the fact that they are rewarded for walking. This can drastically alter a player’s value compared to roto leagues.

For instance, a player with poor plate discipline, such as Javier Baez, is still a solid roto option because he accumulates counting stats while posting a decent batting average. His low walk rate and extreme strikeout rate don’t directly hurt his fantasy value in roto leagues. However, his 184 strikeouts in 2021 (which was fifth-highest among hitters) cost him at least 92 fantasy points, with only 28 of those gained back from walks.

On the flip side, hitters who walk frequently but may be considered middling or unexciting in roto leagues, such as DJ LeMahieu, Jonathan India, or Joey Votto get a value bump in points leagues. A walk in a roto league is a missed opportunity to improve batting average and could indirectly lead to runs scored, but the walks those players had in 2021 would have directly gained fantasy managers an extra 70 to 80 points in points leagues.

Pitchers

As noted earlier, starting pitchers are more valuable in points leagues in general, but it is important to understand why that is. The main difference (which will be a recurring theme in this article) is that roto leagues place explicit value on certain player attributes, whereas points leagues allow more opportunities for a player to provide fantasy value.

One example is the value of innings pitched in points leagues. Innings eaters such as Adam Wainwright, Kyle Gibson, and German Marquez had explicit fantasy value in points leagues in 2021 because they logged 180+ innings. This would give them a base score of 540 points before considering their actual performance. However, each of these three pitchers would have limited perceived roto-league value because of their limited strikeouts and mediocre WHIP values.

The relative value of the relief pitcher position also changes between points and roto leagues, but we’ll get more into that in a bit.

 

Strategy Primer #2: Identify Points Tiers And Position Tiers

When it comes to drafting, it is always a good idea to have an understanding of position tiers, or a rank of players within each position who could provide a similar range of value. This holds true for any type of league format, as it helps fantasy managers create potential paths through the draft. Roto league rankings also need to consider category scarcity. For instance, a player like Adalberto Mondesi is boosted up the rankings in roto leagues because of his elite steal potential, despite the fact that he really doesn’t stand out in any other batting stats.

Fantasy managers in points leagues don’t need to worry about category scarcity. It is a mindset change, but fantasy points are fantasy points, regardless of how they are compiled, or from what position. As such, fantasy managers may find surprising value throughout a points draft, particularly if they haven’t played in the format before.

A prime example of this is at first base. This is usually one of the deeper positions across league formats, but there are pockets of players (say Anthony Rizzo, Josh Bell, Jake Cronenworth, Joey Votto, and C.J. Cron) who are all projected to score between 430 and 460 fantasy points. However, these players have ADP values as much as 30 picks apart. As such, fantasy managers may want to prioritize filling a position with less depth overall and fewer fantasy points to go around, such as third base, knowing that they can wait a bit later to draft a productive first baseman. Only D.J. LeMahieu, Matt Chapman, and Austin Riley are projected to fall into that 430 to 460 point range this season.

This is just one example of prioritizing positional rankings and projected points rankings, but it is an important nuance unique to points leagues. Understanding a player’s points value, regardless of their roto value is key to making wise draft decisions, knowing when to reach for a position, and knowing when to wait.

 

Primer #3: How To Use Your Bench, How To Approach Waivers/Streaming

How you utilize your bench spots will change between league formats as well as whether the lineups are set daily or weekly. Regardless of league size or bench size, I tend to prioritize the majority of bench spots in points leagues for starting pitchers. There are a few reasons for this.

The first is that starters are more valuable over the course of a season, and most head-to-head leagues will implement a start limit each week. As such, it is nice to have more higher-quality pitchers on your roster to start each week. Fantasy managers will have the option to swap those extra starting pitchers into their rotations for daily lineup leagues, and they will have a higher likelihood of having two-start pitchers available for weekly lineup leagues.

The second is that decent hitters are easier to find on the waiver wire in points leagues because pitching is prioritized. Having backup hitters on your bench won’t directly add points to your team unless one of your starting hitters gets hurt. As I mentioned earlier, however, having backup starting pitchers can benefit your point total each week. Rather than hold multiple position players on your bench, you can more easily find replacement value on the waiver wire should you need to replace an injured player or swap a slumping hitter for a hot one.

 

Primer #4: What To Do With Relief Pitchers

To this point, I’ve discussed starting pitchers and hitters, but haven’t really mentioned relief pitchers. Firstly, this is because the state of the closer in baseball has become more nebulous for a number of teams. Also, as you may be able to guess at this point, even the most established closers in baseball do not provide as many fantasy points as middling starting pitchers or hitters. For reference, the top-10 closers are projected to score in the mid to low 400s. While it is always nice to lock down a solid source of saves in any league, fantasy managers can find greater value in points leagues later into their drafts comparatively since they don’t have to chase saves as a category.

This brings up another useful tactic for utilizing relief pitcher roster spots in points leagues: the SP/RP. These pitchers are typically guys who served as both long relievers and spot starters the previous season, but they are essentially starters who are relief-pitcher eligible for the current season. Drafting SP/RP pitchers can help maximize the number of fantasy points that managers get out of their relief pitcher roster spots. Simply being a SP/RP does not make a pitcher valuable in points leagues, as there may be a reason they weren’t in a team’s starting rotation. However, SP/RPs who end up making their way into a team’s rotation for the following season can be great fantasy values. For reference, some notable SP/RPs for the 2022 season are: Ranger Suarez, Cal Quantrill, Carlos Hernandez, and Cristian Javier.

This was a quick overview of the Head-To-Head points format for fantasy baseball. There are so many more things to dive into, but hopefully this served as a helpful introduction, highlighted some of the unique aspects of points leagues, and presented some tactics that could aid in your draft strategy.



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