Rotisserie scoring is without a doubt the best way to play fantasy baseball in my opinion, but I've developed a fondness for the head-to-head points format.
I have Tout Wars to thank for this newfound appreciation. A few years back I was lucky enough to be invited to Tout Wars and was slotted into the H2H points league. While I've been "a perennial bridesmaid" as Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm said on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio broadcast of the auction, falling in the playoffs several times, it's been a great way to keep in touch with members of the league and a great excuse to invite them on our podcasts and radio shows.
I have gotten to know Ariel Cohen, Paul Sporer and others better thanks to this particular league, and they have taught me valuable lessons that I've been able to carry forth to other leagues and formats.
As always with a points league (or really any kind of league), we need to start with the scoring format:
Home Run: 4
Base on Balls: 1
Stolen bases: 2
Caught Stealing: -1
Quality Start: 3
Base on Balls: -1
Inning pitched: 3
Hits allowed: -1
Earned Runs: -1
Hit batsman: -1
This is the CBS Sports points scoring format. In this league, the winner from the previous season gets to pick the scoring system, and Frank Stampfl chose his site's system. So, this marks the second straight year with this particular scoring format.
The most important wrinkle in the scoring system above: three points for every inning pitched. That means a pitcher gets a point for every out recorded on the mound, same for a single or a walk on the hitting side. This inflates the value of starting pitchers and puts a premium on volume with your arms. Another important wrinkle is that this league designates two pitching slots as "RP" slots, meaning you need to have two reliever-eligible players in your active lineup at all times.
I plugged the scoring system into the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit '22 – the No. 3 paid sports app on iOS as of this writing! – and this is how the top of the player pool was projected in this auction draft format:
Juan Soto, OF, WAS - $39.6
Corbin Burnes, P, MIL - $38.9
Gerrit Cole, P, NYY - $38.3
Bryce Harper, OF, PHI - $34.8
Mookie Betts, OF, LAD - $34.6
Walker Buehler, P, LAD - $34.2
Jose Ramirez, 3B, CLE - $32.7
Brandon Woodruff, P, MIL - $32.5
Max Scherzer, P, NYM - $32.3
Julio Urias, P, LAD - $30.9
Shane Bieber, P, CLE - $29.6
Liam Hendriks, P, CWS - $28.4
Eight pitchers projected among the top 12 earners speaks to just how much pitching gets pushed up in this league.
So, let's get into my particular draft. You can see the full results of this auction and every other Tout Wars draft here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1b7i98bVSrLIBx1O9a7n-nVqvHq7W8HL4bXjyblaNsas/edit#gid=1746001481
Walker Buehler, SP, LAD ($38)
This is a pretty easy one when considering the scoring system. Buehler's combination of innings, wins, quality starts and Ks makes him an elite option in this format.
Josh Hader, RP, MIL ($20) and Liam Hendriks, RP, CWS ($22)
I mentioned the emphasis on volume with this points system, and the team broadcasting this auction draft on SiriusXM seemed to pan these two purchases in light of that emphasis. They suggested there was no reason to go after closers in this format. The argument was that you'd just want to get starting pitchers with RP eligibility to slot into those RP spots to maximize volume. That's all fine in theory, but in practice I've found it's hugely beneficial to have a few good closers in this league, even with the premium put on innings. Think about it this way: in this league there are up-and-down moves Friday, so there are essentially 18 pitcher slots on a weekly basis. Even if you have a bench full of SPs, you likely aren't going to have 18 starts to take advantage of during the week. I've found over the past couple years that there are usually a couple "dead" spots on the pitching side in the half weeks for most teams. I will have the two best closers in the game, so I can lock those guys in for good and cycle my many starters through those other 16 slots during a given week.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS ($23) and Aaron Judge, OF, NYY ($23)
This scoring system makes this essentially an OBP league, so these two seemed like massive values at the time. Good thing for Judge, it sounds like the vaccine mandate in New York City will be lifted for athletes and entertainers.
Will Smith, C, LAD ($24)
I wanted Will Smith of the Dodgers on my team and I got him. Perhaps I overpaid a little, but good catchers give you a nice leg up on the competition in two-catcher leagues.
Alek Manoah, P, TOR ($21)
This was another one that the broadcast crew (lightly) criticized. I see Manoah as a top 3-4 round guy this time next year and I think he can put a lot of innings on that frame. Their general point was that you need to be disciplined, not married to any one player and know when to walk away at the auction table – all great points – but I think Manoah's a special arm. In this points system, Manoah projects to be an absolute beast.
Bobby Witt, SS, KC ($9), Max Muncy, 1B/2B, LAD ($7), Mitch Haniger, OF, SEA ($11), Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL ($8), Luis Garcia, P, HOU ($10), Kyle Hendricks, P, CHC ($4), Sonny Gray, P, MIN ($6)
Earlier I alluded to lessons learned from this group of fantasy managers. In particular Ariel Cohen last year showed me the errors of my ways when it comes to Stars and Scrubs auction builds. Stars and Scrubs can work, but it's not the best way to go about building a team in an auction draft. I view it now like punting a category: you CAN make it work, but you're playing uphill if you do that. Why do that to yourself? I wanted to live more in this range of players above this season, spreading my budget around more evenly.
Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT ($5), Alex Verdugo, OF, BOS ($8), Jonathan Schoop, 1B/2B, DET ($2), Corey Knebel, P, PHI ($3), Trey Mancini, 1B, BAL ($3), Michael Conforto, OF, FA ($4), Chris Taylor, 2B/OF, ($3), Travis d'Arnaud, C, ATL ($3), Alex Wood, P, SF ($3)
When I've gone the Stars and Scrubs route in the past, I've had to sit back and groan when the late values come off the board, but with more money in the endgame this year, I was able to capitalize and hit the +1. I'm starting to get a little nervous about Conforto – I'm still sure he'll sign with a major-league team, but time is running out for him to be up to speed and ready to play by Opening Day.
RESERVES: Andrew Kittredge, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, Andrew McCutchen, Jesus Aguilar, Hunter Greene
Final thoughts: Throw any thought of categorical balance completely out the window when you're doing points leagues. Points are points, and it doesn't matter where they come from. Most of the time, the SB contributors you'd consider in a roto league simply aren't worth it in a points league – you get points for steals of course, but not enough to be worth the batting tradeoff you have to make to acquire steals. Most of the time you're giving up something, whether it be power or plate discipline, to chase steals in a roto league, but you do not need to do that at all in a points league since you don't need STANDINGS POINTS to compete in the league. Standings points are a lot different than just regular ol' points.