Kicking Rocks: Mitchell Friedman?

Kole Calhoun? Scooter Gennett? Freddy Galvis? Tanner Roark? These are the names that make up the roster of a championship fantasy baseball team? These are not the men who brought me to the Promised Land this year. Where are they? Where are my guys? Where are the men who I hand-picked back in March after countless hours of research? The men who, week in and week out, dominated the competition so fiercely that the engraver was asking for the correct spelling of my team name back in July? When the bats and arms I rode through this long and arduous season are needed most, I’m left scrambling and sifting through a pile of rubble, filled with young hopefuls, cast-offs, has-beens and never-weres. If there was ever a case to be made that a head to head format in fantasy baseball is a disaster, now would be that time.

If you’re sitting here in September and reading this article then you have a full understanding of what it takes to win a fantasy baseball championship. From the pre-draft study to rolling with the punches on Draft Day to the in-season waiver selections and savvy trades that are made, the fantasy baseball season is work; good, old-fashioned, nose to the grindstone work. Anyone who has won a championship can tell you that it is not an easy feat. Of course there’s a certain amount of luck involved, but if you don’t do the proper research, if you don’t put in the time or dedication it takes to win this game, then you’re nothing but an afterthought come the end of September.

But none of that seems to matter in head to head play. OK, maybe not none of it, but almost none of it. In a roto league, it’s about an entire year’s worth of work. The stats you accumulated back in April are just as important as the stats you accumulate now. In head to head play, you can coast throughout most of the season just doing the bare minimum to get by, make the playoffs and with two week’s worth of close attention can sneak in and win your league with a rag-tag group of guys who couldn’t cut the mustard in the bigs for an entire season but thrive on the main stage for a month while they face other Triple-A hopefuls whose non-playoff bound teams are giving them a brief shot at stardom in games that, for the most part, have no meaning at all.

Injuries happen. I get it. It’s a part of the process. But after a season of dominance and a near-perfect record, why should all of that work mean nothing? Over the past month or so, I’ve lost Matt Harvey, Carlos Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Heyward and Starling Marte. Brian McCann is resting comfortably for the playoffs and Jose Fernandez has now officially been shut down. Obviously you can prepare for certain things, like the Fernandez’ situation, but why does everything that happened for the five months leading up to now mean nothing? That’s just not right. The format works fine for the meatheads and simpletons of fantasy football who can’t seem to focus on their team for more than an hour a week, but for those dedicated fantasy baseballers, it’s just flat-out wrong. A season of hard work and dedication should be rewarded, not dismissed. Your championship should not come easy and if it does, you need to stop playing with third graders who have no understanding of this beloved game.

Ban the head to head format in fantasy baseball. Mitchell Friedman does not deserve a ring.

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

17 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Mitchell Friedman?”

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  1. Zimmerman says:

    Another great article. Thanks.

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  2. Woody Barrelson says:

    If I make it out of the first round of the playoffs this weekend, it won’t be thanks to the players who kept me near the top of the standings all year, and who have now collectively decided stop hitting the ball and start giving up 6 runs in 5 innings every start. It’ll be thanks to Ryan Raburn facing 3 lefties in 4 days…

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  3. pirates hurdles says:

    Well, real baseball playoffs are often exactly like this with guys like Edgar Renteria and Cody Ross winning MVP awards. So, there is a rationale for enjoying the randomness of small sample H2H fantasy playoffs.

    I won a league championship in 2011 on the back of a Joe Saunders ace-like outing against SD at PetCo on the final day of the matchup. I’ll never forget it.

    I prefer roto, but a few H2H leagues are nice to have to liven things up, IMO.

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  4. Walker says:

    I respectfully disagree. In most H2H leagues, the season does matter by rewarding with higher seeds and bye weeks, both of which matter because the scores are always close. Even if that were true, I have never seen an effort or engagement problem with any team that made the playoffs.

    H2H simply requires a different mindset. I find myself paying a lot more attention to contact rate and fly ball rate and platoon splits because I know these are more susceptible to fluctuation in small sample sizes, so players like Votto and Scutaro have much more value in H2H.

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  5. RotoworldModsAreNazis says:

    H2H has it’s place. Namely, between friends where the weekly matchups have an added personal layer and the manager left standing at the end wins nothing more than bragging rights. If you are playing for money in a H2H league, well that’s your own poor decision. So don’t be frustrated when it doesn’t work. I play in 1 H2H league per year because its s different approach and adds some spice. Also, it’s unfair to take shots at H2H leagues without also assessing the drawbacks of roto leagues, which I personally get greater satisfaction from, but if a team gets way out in front come late July, teams at the bottom start packing it in, making the team out front even less likely to concede the lead by the end. H2H leagues by and large have more managers paying attention through the entire regular season in my experience because you only need to be in the last playoff position to be in it. If you sit in 7th place come mid-September in a roto league…guess what, you are out of it pretty much no matter what you do, and so many managers check out if not completely, at least competitively at that point. The H2H haters are a bit silly IMO, because its a fun format if done right.

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    • Cybo says:

      I totally agree. Roto is so boring most years in my experience. Usually by July the you know who your winner is going to be or at least know which of 2 or 3 teams even have a shot. It just seems lame to me. H2H has something to play for every week. You can sweeten things up bt awarding bonuses to best overall record or highest point total or whatever. It stays interesting year round. Yes the playoffs are a crapshoot but that’s what a lot of us love about sports.

      To the author. Sorry ahout your season man. I feel your pain. I took first ogerall and got the first round bye. This week alone I’ve lost E5, King Felix, Rosario has had 1 start, Marte came back but I was forced to drop him for a rag SP as my opponent has a +8 advantage in projected stsrts this week. Your pain is shared among many but its just luck. One year I like to think my team will be on the other end of such an upset. Hopefully yours too. We got 3 days left, its been a good year lets go out swinging.

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  6. KB says:

    Definitely share your frustrations on the serious impact of injuries come H2H playoffs and on how important September is when it doesnt seem to be too important to a lot of MLB teams from a “let’s win this game” standpoint.

    “The format works fine for the meatheads and simpletons of fantasy football who can’t seem to focus on their team for more than an hour a week, but for those dedicated fantasy baseballers, it’s just flat-out wrong.”

    This depends on whether you are referring to a Weekly Lineup H2H league, or a Daily Lineup H2H league. If Weekly, I mostly agree. It’s fairly brainless. If Daily, I completely disagree.

    I play Daily H2H Categories and there is a ton of strategy and attention required. Not only in terms of how you go about setting your lineup/rotation each day in the matchup, but also in terms of understanding your opponent’s strengths/weaknesses and their personal strategy, if they’ve tipped their hand at all.

    Typically, depending on how competitive the league is, you need to have a good idea on Monday whether you are going to be attacking SB or HR, K or WHIP and understand that if you go for all of ‘em, you might not get any. I find it extremely fun/strategic, even if its extremely frustrating @ times.

    And then the playoffs, yeah, it’s a lot of luck. All the decisions come into play, but if, oh, let’s say David Robertson comes into a 5-2 ball game in the Bottom of the 8th, retires the first two hitters then proceeds to get annihilated on the mound, costing your team a Hold and destroying your ratios in the process and pitching so bad that he’s deemed ineffective by the official scorer and not awarded the W despite the Yankees taking the lead in the Top of the 9th, well, then, yeah, that’s just bad luck. But it’s part of the game. Part of any game really.

    I wouldn’t say it’s better than roto. I’d just say their two different games.

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  7. Ruki Motomiya says:

    I wouldn’t say “The format works fine for the meatheads and simpletons of fantasy football who can’t seem to focus on their team for more than an hour a week, but for those dedicated fantasy baseballers, it’s just flat-out wrong.”

    As someone who has spent a lot of time working on my H2H Fantasy Team this week and has made something like 95 Roster Moves this year, and is in first place and on his way to winning the champioship, I feel this is more insulting to people who enjoy H2H leagues than anything.

    H2H’s fantasy playoffs are a bit hit-or-miss (Though you could just play in a year-long H2H no playoffs league if it is only the playoffs), but the H2H format has some interesting descisions that Roto doesn’t, like the fact you can try and go after specific stats by paying attention during the week at where you lead and don’t, paying attention to pitcher rotations and I feel it better rewards paying attention to free agents and trades, because it is a week-to-week basis instead of being a combined all-year thing. I also feel it better rewards starting pitchers and hurts relievers: Your mileage may vary on if this is a good thing or not.

    Different doesn’t mean bad.

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  8. Todd says:

    At least everyone who disagrees with you has the courtesy to treat their opinions as what they are- opinions- rather than asserting that other people’s ice cream flavors are flat-out wrong.

    Yes, h2h can feel capricious, but it’s also much more engaging late in the year than roto, because lots of teams have a shot. That’s why we have the playoffs in real sports, and that’s why we have them in h2h. In roto, it’s all too common for the season to be over for in July or August. That never happens in h2h (or rather, it only happens to a handful of teams).

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but keep the insults to yourself.

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    • Nick says:

      I’m pretty sure the reason they have real life playoffs is because they make millions, if not billions of dollars.

      Literally anything can happen in 3 weeks of baseball. Fantasy baseball requires too much work for it all to come down to that.

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      • Todd says:

        Why do they make all that money? Because they’re exciting.

        No one’s making you play h2h if you don’t like it.

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      • RotoworldModsAreNazis says:

        That’s just flat out ignorant. The playoffs have been a part of baseball dating back to well before sports were a huge money maker. Perhaps the expansion of playoffs has something more to do with money, but to suggest the entire playoff format is based on a desire to collect dollars…that’s simply laughable.

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  9. Erik says:

    This batch of vinegar seems to be distilled from sour grapes.

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  10. Rob Sutton says:

    I play in two H2H leagues: a free weekly redraft league with mostly friends, and a keeper league with daily lineups for money where I haven’t met most of the owners in real life. The first league is fun and easy. I could spend half an hour a week and still compete. The second league is serious business.

    I prefer H2H to roto. Roto rewards you for drafting well. If you draft poorly and don’t fix your team in the first month or so, you are not going to win. You also operate in a vacuum. I don’t care who is on my opponents’ teams unless I’m looking to make a trade.

    H2H keeps you paying attention all season long. I need to be paying attention all season long, every week, looking at team schedules, pitching rotations (who starts twice?), and matchups. I also need to pay attention to my opponent’s roster every week to see what categories I go for and what he is likely to do.

    To make the regular season matter, a serious H2H league should let no more than four teams make the playoffs, regardless of the league size. Penalties can also be imposed for those in the bottom of the standings (larger fee, not invited back, etc.)

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  11. chri521 says:

    No DL due to expanded rosters, all luck… agree.

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  12. David says:

    yeah this article is pretty weak…seems like you wrote it out of frustration and posted without editing or thinking about what you were doing. Eno Sarris said it much better on this very site a little under a year ago. There are definitely pros and cons to both roto and h2h and Eno and most of the commenters above me hit the nail on the head.

    Personally, I love h2h, despite the greater luck element, because of the weekly excitement and daily strategy. I spent a good amount of time yesterday debating who among Zach McAllister or Jerome Williams was more likely to get me a QS and a few Ks while not torching my ratios. I studied their trends, their recent strength of schedule, and how their opponents today had been playing, etc. This is a weekly, if not daily, ritual assuming your matchup is close. Playing in a deep league is even more fun because you really get to know the all the players, be they in platoon or specialist roles. You have to dig to find the best options for your team.

    Also those injuries you had would likely tank any Roto team, and those types of things impact any fantasy game. Next time, I suggest having someone take a look at your latest rant before you post, rather than insulting and alienating your readership.

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