Salary Cap Chronicles
Welcome to the 2012 Season! After a long winter, we are very close to the start of the season (and as an A's fan, VERY close!). I will be writing about the H2H salary cap game at head2head.com (head2head.com). I have played salary cap challenges every year since 1994, so I am looking forward to discussing the game with everyone and hopefully helping people out with strategy and player ideas. H2H is a salary cap based game where you fill 10 lineup spots that have to fit under a $100 million salary cap. In a similar setup to fantasy football, you have one matchup a week and the team that scores the most points gets a "win" for that week. The top teams in each five-team division within your 30 team league as well as those with the most overall points make it to the playoff round of the competition. There are also weekly prizes and a large prize for the best overall team across all the leagues. Of course, you have to beat me to win that!
Today's article will serve as a basic primer into the game and then next week we will get into specific players to target as well as some strategies for Week 1.
On the surface, Head2Head is a very straightforward and easy game to play, but there are a lot of details and strategies we will delve into each week to help you get the most enjoyment and, more importantly, the most wins from your squad. All the players have a set salary that does not change each week. The salaries may change once (but only to allow poor performers a salary decrease) at the All-Star Break and then once again before the playoffs. One of the more interesting wrinkles with Head2Head is that you do not select individual pitchers each week, but rather a team pitching staff with points awarded for wins, strikeouts and low scoring games, but points deducted for high scoring games, walks and HBP. In addition, there are large bonuses for a no-hitter or perfect game, but we won't account for those in our research since there is no real way to predict that, although I'm guessing facing Houston in a four-game series may tweak those odds a touch.
The key to performing well week after week over the course of the season will be to stay active and take advantage of as many matchup advantages as you can. There will be some players that emerge as such good values that they can be played each week (and when you find that low salary guy who produces, use him every week to help you get those higher salary guys in!), but for the most part, a team will want to make sure to take advantage of seven-game weeks, as well as trips to Yankee Stadium or Denver and Texas in the summer. Of course, within that strategy, players on those teams that are home for a lot of games in a week will be excellent plays. A player like Mark Teixeira is the same price no matter who he is facing or where he is playing that week, but he may be a great value for 7 at Yankee Stadium, but a poor one for 6 at Safeco and O.co Worst Name Ever Coliseum. There is a grid on the Head2Head site that provides a quick and easy look at each teams' number of games per period and you will want to take a look at where the games are and what pitchers they are facing. For example, a batter getting all the Philly aces in a week may not be the best idea for your lineup that week. It is also important to remember that you want guys who play almost every day (especially important with catchers) and not anyone who sits vs. lefties or doesn't play back-to-back days, as in a pure point accumulation game like this, zeroes are not your friend. Also, don't forget to check the weather reports. Rainouts are a good way to accumulate zeroes, so it is always smart to check into that, especially in April.
In a league like this, it is also crucial to have a strong understanding of the scoring system. Unlike in 5x5 roto baseball that most people are used to, the goal here is just to accumulate the most points, not be balanced across a number of categories. You don't need to have stolen bases or batting average to win, just the right combination of players who put up the most points that week.
The scoring system for H2H greatly favors power hitters. As a real world example, if Michael Bourn singles, steals second and third, and scores a run, you are doing the Roto Dance of Joy in 5x5 roto, but in H2H, he just got you 4 points where a solo home run itself nets you 6 points. In addition, another item that skews the scoring towards home run hitters is that there is no penalty for a strikeout, but there is a one point penalty for getting caught stealing.
The points for stolen bases will be a nice bonus for those speed/power combo guys like Braun and Kemp, but in this format, we will be avoiding all rabbits that run but provide no pop. Sorry, you will need to retire the Rajai Davis jersey this season. You will read a lot of sites that detail the value of rabbits and while that is true in most games, ignore that here. To drive the point home, Michael Bourn is widely considered the best base stealer in the fantasy game. He provides you with a consistent high number of steals and goes in the fourth round or so in most 15 team drafts. I ran the scoring system through the projections at RotoWire for 2012 and he ranks 74th place among offensive players, behind such first ballot Hall of Famers as Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena. 5x5 roto this ain't, and knowing that is a head start in this battle.
We will have one more preseason article in which I will detail some initial values I see in the game and also preview Week 1 of the fantasy season. As a reminder, the weeks at H2H run Wednesday-Tuesday, so while a little different that most leagues, it also allows you to concentrate all your energy to H2H on deadline day when you aren't worried about your other leagues' deadlines. I look forward to interacting with H2H players all year and hopefully pointing you in the right direction and helping you win many weekly battles and hopefully some league championships. You can comment here with any questions or hit me up on Twitter @ScottJenstad.