HEAD-TO-HEAD: Let's play two

Let's Play Two

Until now, fantasy baseball has been considered an individual game. However, that’s about to change! Using sophisticated strategies and unrestricted player movements to heighten competition, the Double Play format may forever change the way competitive head-to-head leagues are formed and conducted by adding a modern team element to the gaming strategy. This revolutionary approach, when combined with the Cutthroat Option, adds an exciting new twist to advanced head-to-head competition.

Introducing the Double Play format

The Double Play format adds an innovative dimension to head-to-head fantasy baseball by pairing teams prior to the draft. The winner is determined by the combined win-loss record of both teams. Throughout the season, teams work together to win weekly matchups and gain a strategic advantage. Paired teams are allowed unlimited trades with each other, but are not allowed to trade with the rest of the league. Although the teams are managed individually, the ability to share resources and strategy adds a new element of both cooperation and competition.

Paired interests

Borrowing an idea from NASCAR, where drivers race individually, but may be part of a race team, the Double Play format increases the level of cooperation within any H2H league. Owners now have a vested interest in at least two matchups per week instead of one. Sharing strategy to create weekly competitive advantages over opponents becomes a component of every winning paired team’s approach. However, as the cooperation grows the competitive balance changes.

Competition is increased by quickly shifting strategies and players to counter opponents’ moves. With unlimited trading between paired teams, one team can create an advantage by loading a category, such as home runs, with the best power hitters of both teams. The opponent for the upcoming scoring period could counter by adding power hitters from his paired team. That move could be countered as well, continuing until lineups lock for the following week. Quick shifts in strategy require active roster management on the part of both paired teams, making for an exciting fantasy baseball season.

The Double Play draft

Drafting can be completed using an auction or a snake draft. Although the format for drafting remains largely the same as standard head-to-head leagues, the strategy is completely different. Paired teams can make draft selections together and should enter the draft with a clear plan. Owners not only need to decide on which players will compliment both teams, but also how money will be spent throughout the year.

Free Agent Acquisition Budgets (FAAB) can be combined for paired teams or remain separate. If separate, one team could use its budget to acquire a player on behalf of the other team and transfer the player to the other team via the unlimited trading rule. With separate budgets, perhaps one team would spend for free agent acquisitions early and the other team would keep a reserve for injury replacements or hot prospects. Obviously, the strategy for the Double Play format becomes more complex as each paired team in the league conducts transactions and trades players.

Two of a kind

Pairing can be determined by random or by choice, depending on league preference. Random selection can be accomplished by drawing numbers out of a hat. Matching numbers would be paired as teammates for the upcoming season. Otherwise, owners can predetermine pairings with agreements or other selection methods prior to the draft. Some leagues may opt for a reverse standings method, where the first place team from the prior season would be paired with the last place team and so on.

The reverse standings method works well for keeper leagues. Operating under the assumption that the last place team will have the worst keepers, and the first place team will have some of the best, competitive balance could be restored by pairing these teams. Advanced strategies are required to maintain an edge in such drafts.

Large leagues may opt for using a deck of cards to determine random selection and possible divisions. For example, a twenty team league with two divisions may pair teams by using standard playing cards numbering 1-10 in two suits to determine random selection. As each owner draws a card, the matching number determines the pair and the suit represents the division. In this example, an owner who draws the two of clubs would be paired with the owner who draws the two of diamonds, with the clubs representing one division and the diamonds representing the other. As previously mentioned, leagues with keepers and farm systems provide an interesting twist to these drafts.

Winning is easy

Although some Double Play leagues prefer the simplicity of adding up the combined record of the paired teams at the end of the season, playoff formats can still be applied. By allowing all teams to qualify for the playoffs using a consolation ladder, the league champion could be crowned either by the final combined record of the paired teams or by the traditional playoff bracket winner. Bonuses could be awarded to the regular season champion, the combined-record champion, or the traditional bracket winner, depending upon league preference.

What happens when paired teams are scheduled to play each other? Nothing. The win will be effectively cancelled by the corresponding loss in the standings. However, gaming variations could provide for a bonus structure based upon the statistics generated by both teams throughout the week. These statistics could be compared with the statistics created by other paired teams playing each other during weekly matchups with the winner awarded a point bonus or other reward. By establishing ground rules regarding bonuses prior to the season, gaming variations could provide an extra spark in the season, much like interleague play in Major League Baseball.

Trading more than ideas

In large leagues, position scarcity becomes a factor. Unlimited trading allows for gaining advantages by category. Need more speed for an upcoming matchup? Paired owners could trade a speedster, like Jose Reyes, without any concern whether the trade is fair. (Jose Reyes could be traded back again the following week for any other player.) Because the league would not need to approve trades between paired owners, the trades could be instantaneous -- no need for the commissioner to approve the trade or owners to vote on the fairness of the trade. Thus, contentious arguments over the fairness of the trades are eliminated from the league.

Imagine the impact of trading several two-start pitchers for closers to load competitive teams for matchups the following week. One team would gain saves and possibly a lower ERA, while the other team would gain strikeouts and wins. On the other side, opponents would need to counter to win those categories either by trading or adding via the waiver wire. Thus, determining the strength of upcoming matchups plays a key role in positioning players. Playing a weaker opponent in one matchup may allow for creating a virtual all-star team in the other matchup. Remember, the paired owners will most likely be playing against two separate owners, since most H2H schedules are not designed with the pairing option in mind and opponents are randomized.

Beyond co-managers

The Double Play format should not be confused with the co-management option offered by many fantasy baseball platforms. One team owner does not have the ability to set lineups or accept trades for the other team owner. Paired teams operate separately, but function as a team. That means communication and strategy become paramount to winning. If one team does well in the standings, but the other paired team does poorly, chances of winning the league are greatly diminished.

The Cutthroat Option

Looking to ignite a competitive fire? Consider using the Cutthroat Option with the Double Play format. With the Cutthroat Option, each owner submits a ‘protected’ list, usually comprised of the starting lineup, by a specified weekly deadline. After the protected list is submitted to the commissioner, each owner may in turn select one player from his opponents ‘unprotected’ list or bench for the upcoming matchup.

The Cutthroat Option effectively eliminates the hoarding strategy because owners cannot stash players on their bench or ‘unprotected’ list for long. For example, a team with five closers may hold a significant advantage over other teams in a large league. However, with the Cutthroat Option, all five closers must be started on a weekly basis in order to keep them from being swiped by another team. Starting five closers could put a team at a weekly disadvantage with regard to wins and strikeouts.

Using the Cutthroat Option in Double Play leagues creates some interesting possibilities. Each owner of the paired teams would be allowed to swipe one player from his opponent, meaning two new players could be added to the team and two unprotected players could be lost. Imagine the impact of losing two closers or two-start pitchers for the next scoring period. The Cutthroat Option can be a game-changer in H2H formats.


Advanced players will enjoy the heightened level of sophistication required by employing the Double Play format with the Cutthroat Option. Decision-making grows in complexity as the season develops and more multifaceted transactions are completed. What if paired owners disguise their true lineup with what appears to be a lineup loaded for a different category to induce an opponent’s counter move? The game can change quickly, and usually does. Clearly, the Double Play format with the Cutthroat Option is an exciting gaming option for advanced head-to-head players.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.