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Rotisserie vs Roto Head-to-head

Many of the default rankings and articles on Rotowire are geared a bit towards rotisserie basketball, but obviously there are other types of fantasy basketball games out there.  Over the next week or so I'm going to talk a bit about some of those other ways to play fantasy basketball, and how your draft strategy might need to change to adapt to that style.  Today I'll look at rotisserie vs the roto head-to-head style.

For both the roto and the roto head-to-head games, the scoring is done in individual categories.  While many roto leagues play eight categories (points/rebs/assists/steals/blocks/FG%/FT%/3s), the head-to-head version almost always adds the ninth category (turnovers) just to have an odd number.  The odd number is important, because in roto head-to-head the winner in a given week is the team that wins the most statistical categories.  A few things to keep in mind for this type of head-to-head league:
  • Two general strategy types: 1) go for across-the-board excellence, or 2) emphasize five main categories that you know your team will win every week. 
  • Across-the-board excellence usually ensures that your team makes the playoffs, because in this type of league you get credit for the statistical categories you win in a given week even if you lose the game.  For example, suppose your team loses in a week by the score of six categories to three.  Your win/loss record for that week is 3 - 6, NOT 0 - 1.  As such, if your team is pretty good in almost every category, you will very rarely get blown out and likewise you have the chance to blow out poor opponents 8 -1 or 9 - 0 if your team plays well which means by the end of the season you should have a solid overall win-loss record.
  • Emphasizing five main categories is more risky in the season because your win/loss record doesn't have as much upside, but teams that do this right are terrors in the playoffs.  Because in the playoffs, the win/loss is again binary...it doesn't matter how close it is, a win and you move on.  So if you build a team with a dominant back-court and shooters, for example, you could stack it so that you win points/assists/steals/treys/FT% every week almost regardless of your opponent...and if you do that in the playoffs, you're the champ.
A few more thoughts specifically on rotisserie vs roto head-to-head:
  • Quality starters vs good depth.  In rotisserie, generally there is a games played limit so you need to make sure that you are always starting quality players that will make a meaningful positive contribution to your season-long bottom line.  You want some depth, but it does you no good to have two solid players of which you can only play one as opposed to having one great player with a clear-cut back-up.  On the other hand, in roto H-2-H there is usually no games limit so in daily roster transaction leagues it is absolutely crucial that you have a great bench because everyone on your team will play on a weekly basis.  In roto H-2-H, having 2 really good players might sometimes be better than a great player and a scrub because you might be able to start both of your guys regularly.
  • Injuries treated differently.  In rotisserie, there is a premium on health because of the games limit that I mentioned before.  Having a good player that plays 82 games can be better than having a superstar that misses half of the season if his back-up can't really produce.  On the other hand, in H-2-H leagues you can afford to take more of a chance on a superstar that is injured early but that may be ready to compete by the playoffs.  For example, I would draft someone like Tracy McGrady earlier in a H-2-H league than a rotisserie league because if he gets to full speed by March you could have a healthy high draft pick-caliber player that you only paid late-round prices for in the H-2-H league...whereas in the roto league if McGrady is hobbled until March he isn't much good to you.
  • Category killer ok in H-2-H.  Call this the Shaq rule, though the mantle has been somewhat passed to Dwight Howard.  It was almost impossible to win a rotisserie league with prime Shaq on it because he absolutely murdered your free throw percentage, and even if you max out the other categories it's very hard to overcome a '1' in a rotisserie league category.  In a H-2-H league, though, a player like Shaq was still extremely valuable because you could punt free throws and still dominate in the other 8 categories (remember, you only need 5 categories to win a week in most leagues).  So while Superman Howard might be a late second/third round player in rotisserie leagues, in H-2-H leagues he's probably a first rounder.
  • Percentages harder to boost at end for rotisserie.  I learned this trick from Chris Liss, but in rotisserie leagues there are almost always teams that are completely out of the running over the last couple of months and stop checking their line-ups.  As such, a motivated owner can almost always make up a few points in the counting categories late in the season just by jumping over those dead teams.  But in the percentages categories, you can't really make up any ground on a dead team because percentages aren't a function of games played.  As such, in a rotisserie league, it is very important to pick players that shoot good percentages so that you don't have to make that up at the end.  In a H-2-H league, though, percentages are harder to depend on from week-to-week and there is no particular advantage to drafting for them.  As such, percentage boosters like Corey Maggette (FT %) or Pau Gasol (FG%) are a bit more valuable in rotisserie leagues than in H-2-H leagues.

Comments

By: Kyle McKeown
On: 10/8/2009 10:42:00 AM
Great article, Prof. I had never considered the Dominate 5-cats/Tank 4-cats strategy. I've always just tried to have a well rounded team. It's an interesting concept.
 
By: Kyle McKeown
On: 10/8/2009 10:50:00 AM
I would argue that it can be easier to manage someone like T-mac sitting on your bench in Roto than in H-2-H, because you've only got so many games to play at each slot in Roto. Your bench usually just sits there in Roto, while in H-2-H, your bench is integral to your success each week. Most bench players get in the lineup for at least 2 games per week in H-2-H. They only get into Roto if you have an injury. -- Your injury rule is spot on for players like Marcus Camby, Baron Davis, Corey Maggette and other players who miss random games, but for drafting someone like T-mac (who you will plan on sitting for at least the first month and a half this season) it seems he has more value and is easier to wait for in Roto.
 
By: The Professor
On: 10/9/2009 9:10:00 AM
Great point on the stashing someone in a roto league front. I guess my thought process was that if you add a high-round talent in time for the playoffs, it can actually win you a head-to-head league whereas if you add a high-round talent late in a roto league it's nice, but unlikely to move your team totals around very much.

Maybe I can say that it is easier to stash a player in a roto league, but you get more potential benefit out of it in a head-to-head league (though you pay a steeper cost, as well, with not having that body to put into your line-ups).
 
By: Kyle McKeown
On: 10/9/2009 12:54:00 PM
Lol. Great point. It's a strange twist, that it's easier to use the bench spot for an injured player in Roto, but it reaps fewer rewards. Very cool. Thanks for the insight, Prof.
 
By: jobertsonclark
On: 5/9/2011 10:48:00 AM
It really depends on what you enjoy about the game. If you're into the thrill of a walk-off home run victory or the agony of blown save on Sunday night defeat, then you won't mind giving up the more accurate method of scoring for a head-to-head playoff system. But if you're into cold, hard statistics (you're the "Nate Silver" of your group of friends), then you'll be more into Roto. Just have fun! Matthew Mullhofer
 

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