Riding the Pine in Head-to-Head Leagues

2008 Arizona Diamondbacks Dugout

Head to head leagues are a completely different monster when it comes to building a fantasy baseball team, and requires you to build your team differently. The most important part is to know your parameters week to week. Is your league a daily moves league or a set weekly? Do you have a weekly transaction limit, or any minimum of starts or innings pitched?

Let’s just use the parameters for the head to head league I play in:

  • Roster: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, UTL–P, P, P, P, RP, RP–6 bench spots and 2 DL spots
  • We are only allowed 7 transactions per week, but the roster can be adjusted daily with no caps or minimums or innings or starts.
  • It is a 12 team league and although we are a 6×6 league, the extra categories – walks for hitters and quality starts for pitchers – don’t much change the players I would target.
  • We also use a snake draft and each team gets 3 keepers, which will dictate how you build your team.

Ideally I will draft 4 starting pitchers, 4 relief/middle relief pitchers, and 4 bench hitters. The reason being is that it is easier to stream in pitchers off the waiver wire than to stream in hitters. The art of streaming could be a whole post on its own, but simply put it is just using the free agent pool as an extension of your bench. You can drop a player from your team and pick up a guy to plug in for a short period of time. It works well if you know what to look for: a favorable match-up, a player that is trending toward a hot streak or someone who is benefiting from a spike in playing time.

It’s also important to have statistical strength in your bench hitters. Some people in your league may go heavier on mashers, other may like speedsters, so you want to be able to catch up if you are close that week by having a masher and speedster that you can interchange.

Typically this sort of variety is found in the outfield. Whether your league does straight OF spots or does LF CF RF specific, you can find a couple outfielders to interchange. In our league you could have drafted Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher and interchanged them at RF, or played them together by putting one in your UTL spot. Swisher has 1B elg, so he brings even more flexibility.

Positional flexibility is a great asset as well! Guys like Emilio Bonifacio, Martin Prado and Sean Rodriguez are great because by the end of a season they have upwards of 3 different positions they can be rostered at (However, Nick Punto is NEVER roster-able no matter how much position eligibility he has). Watch for guys that may gain position eligibility throughout the season. (I will actually start a regular post about guys gaining eligibility, so if you just check back here once a week you could have the inside track on a guy that maybe gain a valuable position to his name.)

The first couple of guys to watch are Coco Crisp now playing LF, Mike Aviles going to be the opening day SS for the Red Sox and Ryan Doumit will be playing enough at 1B and RF to gain eligibility pretty quick to start the season. Oh, there are these guys named Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez that will apparently be gaining 3B eligibility.

Back to the  bench in your head to head league.  One last thing to remember about your bench is that your DL spots count! Use your DL spots to your advantage. If someone has more injured players than can fit in their DL spots maybe you can buy low in a trade and then stash that injured player in a DL spot, giving you an open bench spot to play with. This is a strategy I often use, I have actually drafted guys I know will start the year on the DL so I can stash them and pick up a person that starts hot out of the gates.

If you put in the work to use your bench well, you will absolutely be competing in September!

Any bench strategies?  Share them in the comments!

Topics: Bench, H2H

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