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Tips for Head-to-Head Playoff Success


Anyone who has read my work, followed my Twitter feed, or in some other fashion engaged with me on the subject of fantasy baseball knows my strong preference for rotisserie formats over head-to-head. While the appeal of the latter is obvious, the idea of successfully navigating the grind of a six-month season only be to undone by a bad week or run of injuries in September really rankles.

As a result, despite my best efforts, I often write more from the perspective of a roto owner than one who plays H2H. Today, however, that won't be the case. With the playoffs looming in most head-to-head leagues, it's the perfect time to dive into a management strategy for the final month.

While there remains a large element of luck inherent to the proceedings, there are definitely things you can do to better position yourself for the championship tournament.

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September Sprint

We'll begin with a piece of advice that applies to any format, which is to know your strengths and weaknesses. By now, you should have a firm understanding of which categories you tend to win or lose more often than not. Use that knowledge to your advantage and undertake a thorough accounting of your league's waiver wire. Is there anything you can do to shore up those areas of weakness? If not, it may be best to fortify your existing strengths. If you own Mallex Smith but have no other sources of speed on your roster, it's unlikely that he's helping you much. Benching or cutting him for a hitter who can provide pop or a higher average could be a better play.

That's especially true if you anticipate running into an opponent who leads your league in stolen bases, which is the second suggestion - scout your opponents and tailor your approach accordingly. A rival who goes heavy on relievers will almost always win the saves category, but leaves himself vulnerable to losing the counting stats (wins and strikeouts), and could even find himself in ratio trouble if his RP string together a few blow-up outings. In this situation, you could opt to go high-volume by streaming starters or loading up on two-start SP to ensure that you come away with at least two of the five pitching cats.

That leads into the third recommendation - plan, plan, plan. Now that you've scouted both your own roster and those of your likely opponents, you need to decide how best to use that information. You should know which categories you're going to target and how to optimize your roster to do so. Schedules obviously can (and will) change, but now is a good time to map out the final month and figure out which pitchers will have two-start weeks, analyze matchups, and make sure you're minimizing the number of off days for hitters. You also need to have a deep understanding of your league rules; whether it's through weekly transaction limits or FAAB, you don't want to find yourself unable to maneuver in crunch time.

Head-to-head playoffs will always be something of a crapshoot, and even following the advice above doesn't guarantee victory. In some cases, in fact, you may wind up over-managing and trying to get too cute. Some owners opt to dance with ones who brung 'em, and that's a perfectly valid approach as well. Regardless of how much or how little you tinker, the outcome is as much a product of the whims of the universe as it is anything that we do to try and control it. If nothing else, though, that provides plenty of excitement. Best of luck to those of you braving the chaos.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.

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