It may not be my favorite format, but out of the nine leagues I play in, four of them are head-to-head -- and the playoffs either started this week or kick off next week. My teams ran the gamut of playoff statuses this season: one #1 seed, one team in the 4/5 match-up, one team that was the last to get a playoff spot and one team that missed entirely. Though, for the record, the team that barely got into the playoffs was the second-highest scoring team in the league -- which means since the #1 seed that I'm playing actually had the most points, it's a true hypothetical championship match-up. But enough about me, let's talk about you.
By now, if you've made the playoffs in your H2H league, you know your team better than anyone else. But you need to use that knowledge to maximize your chances of winning your league. I have found that this can materialize itself in three different ways, and we'll go into each of them individually.
1) Don't be too attached to your starting pitchers
There's a concept that Matthew Berry from ESPN completely beats into the ground (shocking, I know) called the Wandy Line. He essentially claims that outside of the top 30-40 starters, everyone else is dropable in a shallow league. I personally think the concept is overly simplistic and assumes you're in a league that's not particularly competitive. But that's during the regular season -- during the playoffs, this type of strategy is not only warranted, but it's often necessary.
More after the jump...Say you have an Oakland A's starter -- any of them, really -- and they've been either a key member of your staff over the course of the season or one of your better starter from a talent perspective. Maybe it's Tommy Milone, maybe it's Jarrod Parker, it doesn't really matter. From 9/10 to 9/27 (the heart of the H2H playoffs), the A's play only one of five series at home, and the ones they play on the road are against the Angels, Tigers, Yankees and Rangers. Terrible match-ups at a terrible time. As soon as a pitcher hits a string like this, drop him for a guy with better match-ups and don't look back. The situation doesn't even have to be as drastic as this -- next week Ryan Vogelsong (the 19th best SP on the year) is pitching at Colorado on Monday and at Arizona on Sunday. If you need to win next week to move on, and you'd be thinking about benching Vogelsong, just move on if there's someone better out there. Worry about the next week next week.
2) Don't hold onto your backups
This is a pretty popular concept in fantasy football, but in baseball, we tend to get so hung up on off-days and playing match-ups that we don't bother to clear out the cobwebs before the playoffs start. If you have a Billy Butler or Paul Goldschmidt type at 1B and Eric Hosmer on your bench, cut him for a pitcher (unless you're in a keeper league). You're not going to play him over the guy who got you there even if he starts performing like the stud you thought he was going to be tomorrow. The more pitchers you can roster, the better chance you have of winning -- whether its loading up on more starters for counting stats or grabbing an extra middle reliever or two to stabilize your ratios. There's always a way to help your pitching staff with an extra roster spot, don't waste even one.
3) Know when the swing for the fences
Going back to the introduction, you know your team best -- so if you got a little lucky to make the playoffs and are going against a tough team, go for broke. If you've been getting by with David Freese or Mike Moustakas at 3B and you need some more pop, consider dropping them for Mark Reynolds, who has hit 4 HR in the last 4 games and could potentially carry you to a win. You probably wouldn't want to do this if you have a solid offensive team and don't need a Hail Mary from 3B, since it's just as likely that Reynolds could go 1-23 this week with 10 K's.
The same thing goes for pitchers. On Thursday, Marco Estrada (only 14% owned) pitches at Miami in a great match-up against Nate Eovaldi. On Friday, Homer Bailey (only 21% owned) pitches against Houston who he just dominated the last time out. Also on Friday, Andrew Cashner (less than 1% owned) pitches in PETCO against Arizona in his return to the rotation. There are plenty more of these if you look. If you have a pitcher with an unfriendly match-up, don't be afraid to swing for the fences. On Friday, Jeremy Hellickson (97% owned) pitches against the Rangers. I don't care how many leagues he's owned in, you should be able to do better than that for the playoffs.
So as we approach the culmination of the 2012 season, I want to wish everyone out there the best of luck down the stretch. If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer every one of them. If you're on Twitter, feel free to ask me anything there as well at @dynastyguru. And if 140 characters isn't enough for your question, you can always e-mail me at dynastyguru (at) gmail (dot) com. All of us at Fake Teams are here to help you out as much as we can, however we can -- so use us as a resource.