I hate them. I hate head-to-head leagues. I won’t win a single one this year. And, obviously I’m not saying I had the best team in all five of those leagues, but I figured I’d win at least one of them.
This is the lineup of my team that I figured would win it all (12-team H2H):
|C||Carlos Santana *||SP||CC Sabathia|
|1B||Joey Votto *||SP||Yu Darvish|
|2B||Dustin Pedroia *||RP||Tom Wilhelmsen|
|3B||Brett Lawrie *||RP||Ernesto Frieri|
|SS||Jose Reyes *||P||Steve Cishek|
|OF||Carlos Gonzalez *||P||Frank Francisco|
|OF||Mike Trout||P||Kris Medlen|
|OF||Jayson Werth||BN||Andy Pettitte|
|Util||Justin Morneau||BN||Anibal Sanchez|
I mean come on man. It wasn’t even like I had catastrophic injuries to my entire lineup in the semi-finals or anything. Just a few missed games from Carlos Gonzalez, a little slow down from Mike Trout, some oh-fers from the rest of the lineup… honestly, I don’t even know what to take away from this loss. Maybe I could have had better pitching early in the season, but you can see my six keepers, and going into this year it didn’t seem like it was worth keeping a pitcher (Cole Hamels) over these guys. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have kept Carlos Santana. Maybe that’s enough to separate a winner from a loser in head-to-head.
It’s still a good enough team to win. And this isn’t about sour grapes, this is about the nature of the game. Build the best roto team, and you win. Roto was the original fantasy game, and it represents the tradition of accruing stats and winning over the large sample. Build the best head-to-head team, and you’ll make the playoffs. Who knows what will happen after. That makes head-to-head the newcomer, the one with more luck built-in, the long-sample game with a short-sample conclusion.
And that’s why I hate it. I mean I love it. But I hate it. It’s brutal some years. Some years you won’t get your hands on a title despite pairing Mike Trout and Carlos Gonzalez in your outfield. Shouldn’t the best team win?
Proponents of the setup say they love the head-to-head competition, and the trash talk. And it’s impossible to ignore the fact that head-to-head mirrors real life the best. You can build a great team, but who knows what will happen in the playoffs. And, judging from the end of the day that happened in the home league of Amazin Avenue‘s Chris McShane, head-to-head can mimic the excitement of those real-life playoffs, with nail-biting end-of-seat frantic refreshing:
In short, strikeouts, saves, and WHIP were up for grabs. … So we were down to a battle of the bullpen. With the Dodgers ahead by four in the seventh inning, Jansen came on. He walked the first batter he faced, nearly killing me, but struck out each of the next three Reds hitters. My Beans went from trialing strikeouts by one to leading them by two.
Belisario pitched the eighth inning. He struck out one and allowed one hit, a two-run bomb. For the purposes of our matchup, what mattered was the fact that it was one hit against Tony Plush’s WHIP and the fact that it turned the ninth inning into a save situation for Brandon League. If League recorded just one strikeout and got the save, the entire matchup would come down to a battle of WHIP.
League struck out the first batter he faced. The next batter grounded out, and I accepted the fact that my fantasy season was very likely over. At that moment, Michael had tied me in strikeouts, was about to tie me in saves, and held a lead of .002 in WHIP. But Joey Votto, who plays for Michael’s team, came up with two outs and drew a walk. Tony Plush’s WHIP swung back above that of the Beans, and when League retired the next batter to end the game, my Beans’ margin of victory in WHIP was .006.
Somehow, this was almost an exact repeat of last year’s first round, in which my team beat Michael’s team 6-5-2 and won WHIP by .034.
I love that last detail. As rare as that Dodgers-bullpen-watching moment felt for McShane in the moment, he had to admit — it happened just last year, with the same managers beating a hole into the same walls with the same spot on their heads. And just as angry as I am about losing most of my head-to-head leagues (I only have a third-place game and consolation tournament final on the line now, but at least that one’s for the #1 pick in the draft), I did have a few exciting matchups that went down to ties on the final day.
So this is why we hate head-to-head leagues and yet we love head-to-head leagues. This is why I still play about half my leagues in head-to-head, and this is why I’m so glad I have some roto leagues left to win. But then again, I have to play all sorts of leagues, just to stay on top of different players in different settings. If I had to play one league, it might be one of those head-to-head/roto hybrids with two winners — one regular season roto champ, and one head-to-head playoffs champ.
Then again, one of those winners has to get more juice. So, people playing the H2H/roto hybrid leagues out there — which trophy matters more? Which format do most of you prefer?