The All-Star Head-to-Head 2011 Fantasy Baseball Team

Something to read while the Flying Tomato lands a four-peat.

With fantasy football a few weeks behind us, the real American pastime can begin to grasp hold of America. Don’t even attempt to begin a battle you should already know you will lose. Football is just another easy out for American sports enthusiasts and should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Baseball. (This blogger should be beat with Pa’s Ol’ Beatin’ Stick… his only valid point is #5)

According to the countdown in the upper right of the site, Pitchers and Catchers report for training in roughly 10 days, 23 Hours, and 20 minutes. And since we are within the 2 week period, it is officially time to start talking Fantasy Baseball… and it isn’t a minute too soon as I was beginning to go bananas.

Fantasy Baseball comes in two opposing identities (there are other formats but not nearly as popular)… similar to Cinderella and the Ugly Step-Sisters. Rotisserie and Head-to-Head. One may ask… so which format is Cinderella and which format is the Ugly Step-Sisters. The Commish’s opinion is only one small opinion, but seeing as you are reading this post, it’s an opinion that you care about (I’m just stroking my own ego at this point). But, Cinderella only plays in Rotisserie format Fantasy Baseball, for several reasons.

  • It encourages building a superior all-around team.
  • It encourages research on all players and trying to find that turd to polish diamond in the rough and not streaming pitchers.
  • The best team always wins.
  • There is no luck involved because there is no ‘easy schedule’.
  • You can’t cheat (I’ll explain this comment below).

The one thing Rotisserie lacks in compared to Head-to-Head is the ability to provoke competitiveness, friendly banter, and managers in last may stay interested longer (although no manager should walk away from a team). In Head-to-Head, your team always has a specific opponent. Sure your team may be in last and out of the playoffs in August, but the ability to play against your arch nemesis (probably your boss), who is ranked number 1 in the league, and pull off a week victory leaves you feeling as if you had just won the World Series. Yes, Head-to-Head is perfect for the league that survives on cockiness and not necessarily on baseball knowledge and wits.

What fuels this hatred of Head-to-Head of mine? It’s the idea that one can walk into a league with very little baseball knowledge but has a fined tuned ability to dissect the rules and scoring. For anyone who has any morals and participates in Head-to-Head Fantasy Baseball leagues, please turn away and do not continue any further with this post. Because what follows next will give you the tools to be almost unstoppable in any Head-to-Head league.

Are you sure you want to continue reading? If you continue, I cannot be held responsible for you being banned from your high stakes league with all your old high-school buddies for using “the force” for evil and not for good.

Welcome to the Dark Side Photo: via LoiterInk

Ok, you have committed to the Dark Side… let the Head-to-Head Fantasy Baseball League Ass-Whooping Commence.

What does it take to win a typical 5×5 head to head. Only SIX category wins a week. Well, five and own the tie breaker in the end. With just that comment, every head-to-head player is now unbelievably dangerous. How??? Each team only needs to try and win 5 categories each week. In doing so, a team finishing at 0.500 (hopefully better than 0.500) should be able to make the playoffs, WHERE every team starts with a clean slate. Now a team just simply needs to win each week and take home the trophy.

Here is the secret to winning at least five categories a week (and the reason for the ‘Cheating’ comment above): Punt the Batting Categories… Yes, just wave the white flag.

Why the batting??? The batting categories are HIGHLY dependent on week to week performances from the MLB players. Just think how many batters go on multiple week slumps. Or batters who can’t preform against superior pitchers. Elite pitching is just much more reliable. Sure a pitcher will have his share of rocky starts, but stacking the top elite arms on one team will almost eliminate multiple pitchers on one fantasy team having untypical outings in the same week.

Think about it: Could a team with Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell ever be beat in Wins, ERA, WHIP, K’s, or Saves (assuming more than just the two closers) in a week? Sure. “But wait, didn’t you just say stacking a team with elite pitchers will always win?” Wrong. There are always weaknesses in any battle plan. Opponents against this team can try to pitch the league minimum of innings and bench all pitching in an attempt to steal ERA and Whip categories. Now the elite pitching squad can only guarantee 3 pitching category wins. But guess what, there is another trick up this strategy’s sleeve. This elite pitching team still has his batting categories. Even in punting the categories, certain ones should be targeted as a backup plan to either a) smart opponents, or b) weeks where multiple pitchers start hanging curves.

The Doc

How to cover your elite pitchers’ backsides:
Target offensive players with unusually high Stolen Base output while maintaining a respectable Batting Average. Let me throw out a list of players who aren’t going to be drafted in the top 5 rounds that will win your team a championship: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chone Figgens, Angel Pagan, Desmond Jennings, Elvis Andrus, Rafael Furcal… The list can keep continuing. What do they all have in common? They will most likely combine to hit less than 6 HRs each, but will steal more than 45 bases EACH while hitting around a 0.280 Batting Average. Not to mention all the Runs they will score since they will all be at the top of their respective teams’ lineups. This provides a stop gap in a strategy with obvious holes. It gives the elite pitching team a very high percentage in winning 3 batting categories on top of the 5 pitching categories already targeted.

Maybe RotoRank said it best:

“Although H2H Leagues are not my favorite fantasy game format, I do find myself playing in those leagues against small groups of friends. It’s actually a format that ever so slightly helps to handicap veteran fantasy players when competing against people new to the fantasy league experience.”

In my opinion… It is just far too easy to win a head-to-head league. Don’t believe me? Try this strategy once. Join a public league with no one you know and be proactive in an elite pitching team. I guarantee your team makes the playoffs. I would bet that your team makes the championships. And pending any major injuries or flukes on your team, your team will most likely bring home the championship.

There… you now know the secrets to winning and the reason Rotisserie formats are superior to Head-to-Head leagues. Use the Force wisely young master… Wait? You still have your doubts? Take a look at a team you could potentially put together in a 10 team, 5×5 Fantasy Baseball league in 2011. Then tell me you don’t think that this team could win at least 5 or 6 categories each week.

Round Player Expectations
1 Doc Halladay Sub 3.00 ERA, 200+ K’s, 1.00 Whip, Dominant
2 King Felix or The Freak See Doc but with fewer wins
3 Cliff Lee 10/1 K/BB Ratio in 2010… Un-earthly
4 Adam Wainwright 200K’s, 3.10 ERA, 1.10 Whip, Pujols Run Support
5 Verlander or CC Mark my words, Verlander 2011 AL Cy Young
6 Mariano Rivera 35+ Saves, 2.00 ERA, Sub 0.90 Whip, One Pitch
7 Jacoby Ellsbury 65+ SB, 0.290 BA, 85+ Runs, 2011 MLB SB Leader
8 Heath Bell 80+ K, 2.50 ERA, 35+ Sv, SD win more close games w/o A-Gon
9 Hamels or Ubaldo 3.50 ERA, 190+ K, both untouchable in NL
10 Brett Gardner 55+ SB, 0.285 BA, Only the second batter drafted
11 Juan Pierre 60+ SB, 0.295 BA, Rounds out a quick OF
12 Chone Figgens Most are down on him but will lead 2B with 45+SB and 0.280BA
13 Rafael Furcal SS who steals 20+ SB w/ 0.290 BA and available this late
14 Andrew Bailey Grab more closers, sub 1.00 WHIP, young and unhittable
15 Joe Nathan Coming off IR, returns to closer role, a steal in 2011 drafts
16 Derrek Lee If you want a 1B, No longer a ChiCub, he will rebound in Camden
17 Desmond Jennings Rookie status, Elite Speed, 50+ SB, gamble on the speedster
18 Craig Kimbrel Unheard of name, 100+K at RP, Sub 2.00 ERA
19 Jake Peavy Glass arm, but when healthy could return to SD days
20 Placido Polanco If you want a 3B, will help BA at 0.300+
21 Yadier Molina If you want a catcher, should return back to 0.280 BA form

Other players to consider to help build the elite Head-to-Head team (if others left the board too soon):
Greinke, Gallardo, Cain, Kershaw, Lester, Hanson, Verlander, Nishioka, James Loney, Placido Polanco, Chris Sale, Nyjer Morgan

The Force Is With Thee

Seriously, that team will dominate pitching and stolen bases. Here is another tip: don’t draft a 1B, 3B, or Catcher. Only do so if you want to pad Runs or Batting Average even further. You can’t afford wasting draft picks on these positions for players who steal double digit bases at these positions. Instead DRAFT MORE PITCHING. Middle relievers and superior closers are very useful in lowering ERA and Whip even further (not just for saves).

Trust Yoda the FBB Head-to-Head Jedi Master. Draft this team, win you will!

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2 Responses
  1. The Commish says:

    Well you can take Hitting for the Cycle out of scoring since almost no one achieves that for the season. Same with Grand Slams (they happen but you can’t count on them). The speed guys will hit more doubles and triples than most players due to their speed so I think that plays to your advantage in this scenario as well. The Homers being worth 4 pts is what hurts this strategy, but lets take a typical power hitter who hits 40+ HR, that is 160pts. Now for a speed guy who hits 4-5 hrs, and steals 40+ bases that is 100 pts. So a 60 pt difference. A difference you probably can’t make up in just doubles and triples difference between the two players. But I would still take a Pitcher heavy approach in this setup as Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts and Saves are worth a lot of points. I would then target the 20-20 guys or power hitters that are ‘past prime’. Seeing as poor batting avg doesn’t hurt as long as they aren’t striking out, you can do a lot with the bottom of the barrel position players at the end to middle of the draft (when everyone else is looking for pitching).

    Just my opinion

  2. Mike Wrights says:

    Would the above line-up be as effective in a head to head, 10 team with the following categories and roster spots ?


    Runs 1 RBI 1 Hitting for Cycle 10

    Singles 1 Stolen Bases 2 Grand Slam 8

    Doubles 2 Caught Steaing – 2

    Triples 4 Walks .5

    Homers 4 Strikeouts – .5

    Pitching cats:

    Wins 6 Walks – 1

    Losses – 2 Strikeouts 2

    Complete Game 3 No Hitter 10

    Shutouts 6 Perfect Game 20

    Saves 6 Blown Save – 6

    Homers – 1