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Fantasy 101: H2H Points Leagues

I would hate to be labeled the resident points league expert at Rotowire, because I am well aware that these leagues require the least "skill" of any common format. However, I play in two head-to-head points leagues with friends from college, which is probably two more than the majority of the writers at the site, so the shoe, in this case, may fit. These leagues are quite honestly the lowest form of fantasy baseball. If you are thinking of starting a serious fantasy baseball league, I would strongly urge you to start a rotisserie league, or at least a head-to-head roto (sometimes called head-to-head category) league. Andrew Fiorentino did a great job breaking down the strategy for these leagues on Thursday.

If you do not heed my advice, or if you are already in a points league, then the rest of this blog post should give you a leg up on the competition. Saying that points leagues require less skill is perhaps not the right phrasing. Instead it should be said that points leagues require the least knowledge and the least amount of effort on the part of the owner. This is because you can simply sort by points when analyzing the past performance of a hitter or pitcher. It does not matter if you know that Chris Carter hits for a low average but gets on base at a reasonable clip. You just need to know which players Carter will outscore on a per game basis.

These leagues were invented (I assume) for people who found the transition from fantasy football to fantasy baseball too confusing or challenging.

Indeed it is very similar to fantasy football in the way that you follow your team on a night-to-night or week-to-week basis. It will take you one second to check the score and see that you need to outscore your opponent by X number of points on Sunday in order to get the win for the week. Here is how the calculus changes with each position:


Like with my Carter example, batting average is not a determining factor when deciding whether to own a player. If you only have access to rotisserie rankings, use some that are tailored for OBP leagues instead of batting average leagues, as walks are as valuable as singles in most points leagues. The top players are basically the same. Mike Trout is still the best player to own, but counting stat machines like George Springer and Brian Dozier become more valuable since their flaw (a mid-to-low batting average) does not cause harm.

Starting Pitchers

ERA and WHIP are no longer crucial. The most important thing is going deep into games, preferably while striking a bunch of guys out. This means a guy like R.A. Dickey is much more valuable. Innings are worth points. Wins (and sometimes quality starts) are worth points. A pitcher with 215 innings, 175 strikeouts, 15 wins and an ERA of 4.10 is basically an ace in points leagues (not that this pitcher necessarily exists or could exist). This means that rookies and younger arms who may have their innings capped are much less valuable. An outing where the pitcher goes five shutout innings, only strikes out three and is handed a no-decision will be worth eight points in many formats (one point per inning, one point per strikeout). Conversely, an outing where a pitcher goes eight innings, strikes out 12, gives up five runs and gets the win could be worth 25 points (10 for a win, -1 for each run). For this reason, veteran pitchers who routinely approach 200 innings in a season are worth more in points leagues than in traditional formats.

Relief Pitchers

Like fantasy football, there are often very specific position spots on not just the hitting side, but the pitching side too. There might be five spots for a starting pitcher and one or two spots for a relief pitcher. This means that once you have the minimum number of relief pitchers, the rest of the relievers on the waiver wire are worthless unless they start outperforming another reliever who is owned. This essentially treats closers like defenses or kickers in fantasy football. The best ones are owned, and the worst ones remain unowned all season. This removes all nuance from that part of the game. In my two points leagues Dellin Betances was unowned all season long. He did not qualify as a starting pitcher, and he did not get saves (which are worth 10 points) so there was no point in starting him as a relief pitcher.

There are so many different scoring formats for points leagues, so if you have a league-specific question for me, hit me up on Twitter @RealJRAnderson.