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Monday, February 19, 2007

Fantasy Baseball Scoring: Roto vs H2H

To Roto or not to Roto: That is the question. Rotisserie (roto) scoring is still used in a majority of leagues, but Head to Head (H2H) scoring has made some progress in recent years. Does anyone honestly use points scoring??? Anyways, although leagues generally use the same categories, the scoring and results can be completely different. This article will look at the differences (both subtle and obvious) between the two scoring systems, highlight the pros and cons of each and show the types of players which are better suited to each scoring system.

Differences in scoring
Roto scoring is cumulative throughout season whereas H2H scoring is determined on weekly intervals. If you didn't know that by this point, then you're also probably under the impression that Derek Jeter is a great fielder and that baseball awards are extremely important. In which case, this website probably gave you a heart attack. In any case, the main difference between Roto and H2H scoring is that points can be made up in Roto leagues, but once they are won or lost in H2H leagues, they are gone forever.

To explain this better, let's assume that you had a team last year that included Juan Pierre, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Rafael Furcal, Hideki Matsui, Carlos Zambrano, and Jake Peavy. As of May 1st, you would have 2 hitters batting under .200 (Furcal, Ramirez), only 1 hitter over .260 (Teixeira), no hitter with more than 4 HR (Ramirez), 2 hitters contributing a total of 4 RBI's--meaning they were on pace for 12 RBI each (Furcal/Pierre) and 2 pitchers with 1 combined win and ERA's of 5.17 and 5.35 respectively (Peavy/Zambrano). These could easily have represented someone's first 7 picks or 6 of the first 10. And your team would have been screwed in every offensive category except perhaps steals. Same thing with Wins, ERA, and WHIP (both did manage to still get some K's). And you'd probably be ready to give up on fantasy baseball and perhaps your life (as I was, owning 5 of those players). In Roto scoring, the HR/AVG/RBI can all be made up over the course of the season because the only thing that matters is where you stand in each category on Oct 1. So even though Tex and Ramirez only had 25 HR at the AS Break, they hit 46 HR post AS Break which would have raised you a few spots in HR (and theoretically RBI as well). However, in a H2H league, all of the weeks when you lost HR/RBI/AVG because of them are points on the scoreboard, that you can't erase. They are permanently factored into your record (and thus your standing) once the week is over. This is the main difference between H2H and Roto which most people don't understand. In Roto leagues you can still end up getting more HR/RBI points than the slob who drafted/added Chris Shelton, Xavier Nady, Johny Gomes, and Phil Nevin. But in a H2H league, you probably lost quite handedly (at least in the OFF categories) if you played him during April at any point. Now, you would undoubtedly have destroyed him and taken the HR/RBI points when you played him again in June and August. But the point is that those points you lost in April add up and in a Roto league, he wouldn't get them because by the end of the season, you would have moved ahead of him and thus, taken them away. This above example also brings me to another difference between the leagues and this involves adding/dropping players.

Roster Transactions
The scoring differences I described above also relate to the adding/dropping of players. In Roto, you can afford to hold onto struggling players for much longer than H2H, because your finish line is months away whereas in H2H it is only 1 week away at most. When Aramis Ramirez struggles week after week, he keeps losing you points in your H2H standings. But in Roto, he has time to make it up in the standings. So it's much more tempting (and sometimes necessary) to cut players in H2H leagues much sooner than in Roto (of course those who dropped Ramirez or Justin Morneau last year were probably kicking themselves post AS Break). Of course, good judgement needs to be exercised as always.

Adding and dropping players applies much more to pitchers though as a pitcher's performance is much more dependent on the matchup(s) they face that week (team, ballpark, etc.). This is why its not as critical to draft a solid 5-7 man rotation in H2H as it is in Roto. In H2H you can keep streaming pitchers in and out of your lineup (either weekly or daily depending on your league's settings) and end up with the same results in Wins, K's, ERA/WHIP as the guy who drafted 3-4 pitchers in the first 12 rounds. Of course you still run the risk of screwing your ERA/WHIP by having 1 or 2 bad starters get completely shelled.

Category Valuations
On the offensive side, 4 of the 5 categories have pretty much the same value in both scoring systems. The only category which you need to treat differently is SB. In roto leagues, every steal counts when its one of the 60 from Jose Reyes or 1 of the 9 from Matt Holliday. However, in a H2H league, the 1 or 2 steals you may get from Chase Utley or Carlos Lee in a week is completey useless, unless you manage to win steals for that week. Thus, the main point is that marginal steals (8-20) have very little value in H2H leagues as compared to Roto leagues. You may get 1-2 steals each week from Lee/Utley/Bay but you'll still most likely lose the SB point against the guy with Reyes, the guy with Figgins, the guy with Pierre, the guy with H Ramirez, and the guy with Crawford. In Roto, Lee/Utley/Bay can equal Reyes over the long haul in SB; in H2H they might or might not equal Reyes during 2-3 times a season you play the team he's on.

On the pitching side, there's not much of a difference for Wins, Saves, and K's since Wins/Saves are so fluky and depend on so many things besides a pitcher's performance, and high strikeout pitchers usually have high strikeout games. You generally don't see pitchers with fluctuations between 1K and 10K games on a regular basis. ERA & WHIP are the two categories which should be treated differently. In Roto, a bad pitching performance stays around forever, whereas in H2H it's gone the next week against a new opponent. When you start Jake Westbrook against the Tigers (look up his career numbers), it's gonna take at least 2 (or more) starts to negate those 8 ER and WHIP over 2.00. In H2H, his crummy start may cost you ERA and WHIP for that week, but its not going to affect your ERA/WHIP going forward (which it does in Roto). This is why its much more important to get a core group of 5-7 starters in Roto than in H2H. This also applies to closers as well, but in the reverse. Terrible closers (who may end up with similar save numbers as Nathan, Rivera, etc.) can be absolutely brutal on your ERA/WHIP and can effectively ruin your ERA/WHIP with one outing because they only have 1 inning at most to distribute those runs over (as compared to starters who usually last at least 3 innings). This will be discussed later in the positional valuation section. The point is that in Roto, Bobby Jenks 41 saves are equivalent to Wagner's 40 saves and Jenks higher ERA/WHIP don't hurt you as much because they happened over a small number of IP compared to the entire season (1250-1600 IP). You can make up the 13 ER difference among your starters (ex. Zambrano vs Bonderman). However, since the intervals are so small in H2H (1 week), several bad closer outings can completely ruin your ERA/WHIP. In other words, 4 scoreless IP usually won't win you ERA/WHIP (since this is at most 10% of your IP for the week), but 8-10 ER over 2 IP can shoot your ERA/WHIP so high that its impossible to recover over only a wek. Thus, when you hear Eric Karabell constantly saying "Saves are saves" remember that this applies mainly to Roto.

Position Valuations
On the offensive side, there isn't much difference between most positions since unknown players always emerge during the season. However OF is one position where H2H leagues pose a significant difference than Roto. Because there is so much more offense for OF (as compared to say SS or 2B), there are always OF to be plucked off the wavier wire going to a favorable hitters park or on a hot streak. This is especially true in deep leagues which have 4 or 5 OF starting. As mentioned earlier, because the points earned at the end of the week can not be taken away, it pays to pick up hot OF who are going to hitters parks or facing terrible teams. The difference between OF and other position is that there is just so much more depth than other positions (except perhaps 1B).

On the defensive side, closers and starting pitchers both have their value changed depending on the league. For SP, middle of the road starters have more value in Roto than in H2H for the same reasoning mentioned above regarding the fact that points earned in H2H leagues are finalized. Dominant starting pitchers have a little more value in Roto because there will be some weeks in H2H where they have bad starts and therefore don't deliver their value. But overall, there's little difference between people like Santana, Carpenter, etc. in either type of scoring system. Closers however exhibit a huge difference. Top quality closers are much more valuable in H2H than in Roto because 1 bad closer outing can effectively cost you 2 points (ERA/WHIP) and also Saves if a RP blows 2-3 saves in a week (if you don't think it happens look up Ryan Dempster or Fausto Carmona). It's the same basic reasoning as the SB valuation mentioned above. You can get 35 saves out of Joe Nathan or Joe Borowski. In Roto scoring, you can negate Borowski's higher ERA/WHIP with your starters and the impact also isn't that great by the end of the season. However, in H2H, there will be weeks where you can't make up for the 1 IP, 4 ER outing or the 1/3 IP 3 ER outing because you only have 40-50 IP as compared to a whole season. Thus, stud closers are much more valuable in H2H than in Roto.

Winning or Losing isn't much different in Roto and H2H leagues. Bad teams in Roto leagues are usually bad in H2H leagues as well, and vice versa. However, the main difference is that H2H leagues have playoffs, very similar to MLB playoffs, and as a result, the best team doesn't always win (especially when 8 of their players sit out the final day of the season). Thus, although we mentioned earlier people can make up ground over the course of a season due to struggling players, its quite difficult to go from last to first in Roto. You might be able to make it to 3rd or even 2nd, but usually in Roto, the teams at the very top (1st, 2nd) are teams that have been consistent the entire year. In H2H leagues, you can essentially do what the Marlins did in 2003 ---get off to a terrible start, then catch fire due to key additions (Cabrera, Willis), and end up as the best team at the end of the season (even though your overall record didn't reflect it). This is one of the things which makes Roto a much more fair evaluation of team/manager quality than H2H. H2H rewards the hot team at the end of the season (like pro sports playoffs--which still usually is one of, if not, the best regular season teams); Roto rewards long term consistency and performance. It's a tradeoff essentially between fairness, interest, and excitement. Which ever scoring system you prefer, just remember that JD Drew has never gone 30-100 once in his career and that Jimmy Rollins outhomered Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Tejada last year.


RotisserieHead to Head
Pro's-Rewards overall consistency (similar to MLB regular season)

-Can make up ground for struggling players over the course of the entire season

-Don't need to pay attention as much as H2H
-more interesting, small weekly intervals allow people to stay interested in improving their standings

-Playoffs give people a chance to make up for early season struggles (similar to MLB playoff system)
Con's-long season; players tend to lose interest as season wears on esp. those at the bottom of the standings

-can be difficult to make up ground after a bad start since no playoffs at the conclusion

-Struggling players lose points which can't be made up

-Best team doesn't always win in playoffs because of 1 or 2 hot/cold players

-Playoffs usually happen when teams are resting star players for the MLB playoffs

-Requires constant roster attention--especially in leagues with minimum IP

-- Luck plays a huge factor, as there will be weeks when your team will have better stats than every other team in the league----except the team you're playing that week.

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