I’ve always been of the mindset that in a categories league, the best fantasy baseball teams will emerge at the top of the standings. However, in a points league, you’ll find the best fantasy baseball managers atop the standings. These are the managers that know the rules and scoring, they’re the savvy waiver wire hawks, and they’ll know the right stats to punt and not bother with. Points leagues are incredibly frustrating for a first-time player, but you through trials and tribulations you’ll pick up on the advantages you can gain and outsmart the rest of your league.

Not to Sound Like A Broken Record, But…

Know. Your. League. Rules. With every Draft Guide, whether it’s MLB or NFL, Howard Bender preaches this philosophy like its scripture. The very first thing you should do after accepting your league’s invitation is familiarize yourself with the scoring, transaction rules, and roster restrictions/limitations. For example, how much weight do steals carry? If they’re two points or less, don’t bother looking at speed. What’s the value of saves in comparison to wins or quality starts? If the former pales in comparison to the latter, you can pass on closers unless you’re required to hold two or three, but there’s a way you can skirt those rules which we’ll touch on later. If home runs and power are heavily rewarded then you can easily load up on power bats even if it sacrifices batting average. A poor BA will not hurt you in points leagues. You just want counting stats in this format, so save the ratios for the nerdier leagues. Become familiar with your waivers transactions. Is there a cap on how many moves you can make each week? This becomes crucial when you…

Stream Starting Pitchers

Streaming pitchers is a thrill. I’ve had league commissioners not invite me back to leagues because I was streaming too much. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but it is what it is. It can benefit you more in a points league. In a categories league if you have a streamer pitch five innings and give up four earned runs, that’s a bad start. However, depending on the scoring, a streaming pitcher can still return some value even if it’s just three-to-five points. It may not sound like much but adding up the rewards from all your streamers will give you an edge. Will you hit on every streamer? No. You’ll have some duds just like how you’re first few draft picks will have bad performances, but more often than not you’ll find streamers putting you in the black, rather than red. The perfect streamers are obviously those in good matchups, pitchers that get run support, can at least pitch five or six innings and minimize damage. Wins typically carry the most weight, but there’s been a shift in recent years to reward quality starts and put an emphasis on saves to have more value as well. If your league limits your transactions to seven or eight per week, by all means use five or six of them on streaming a pitcher. With 30 teams fielding five-or-six-man rotations there will always be plenty of arms to stream each day. And if you aren’t feeling the matchups then so be it. Be conservative and attack with streamers the next day. This isn’t a practice that needs to be exorcised every day but take advantage of this a few times each week.

Punting Positions/Categories

I alluded to this briefly in the “Know Your League Rules” section, but it requires some clarification. Different sites have automatic settings for steals, saves, and holds. There are some providers out there where the league awards one or two points for steals and in those formats you can disregard speed entirely. Other sites have given five points per steal and if that’s the case then you can collect a few bag swipers. The same goes for reliver categories. I’ve participated in leagues where saves are just five points and, in all honesty, that isn’t worth it in my opinion. If quality starts hold more weight or are even similar in value to saves, then I’ll target the former because at least with quality starts, I know the pitchers I’m starting have a shot at garnering those points. Saves aren’t easy to predict and you could be throwing guys out each night and they may not even appear in the game. This is why for points leagues, it’s better to find relief-eligible pitchers that can toe the rubber as a starter.

Identify the SP/RP’s in Your League

If you choose to let other people waste draft capital or FAAB on relievers, then good on you. You can fill the RP-void with actual starters if they maintain relief eligibility. Tanner Roark was a godsend a few years back because he was the fifth man in Washington’s rotation, but a lot of sites listed him as SP/RP-eligible (you can pronounce it as ‘Sparp’). This is a great example of finding the loophole and exposing it. Why fill a spot with a pitcher who may only go out for three innings each week where saves aren’t a guarantee and maybe he notches a couple strikeouts when you can start a pitcher that’s in the rotation and can go five, six, or seven innings in one day? Neither pitcher is immune to a bad appearance, but that’s the nature of any fantasy performance. But you’re trying to maximize your points. Starting pitchers have a higher output in points formats because they pitch more, generate more strikeouts, and are more likely to get quality starts and win bonuses. Seth Lugo carries SP/RP eligibility on ESPN as does Cal Quantrill and it does seem like Quantrill could crack the Indians’ rotation as their fifth starter, but time will tell. Also keep an eye on Tejay Antone with Cincinnati. He may not crack the rotation right away, but could eat up innings in long relief. It’s still early with many weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report, but do not overlook SP/RP players.

Strikeouts vs. Walks

It goes without saying, but strikeouts and walks are pretty important in fantasy baseball. And that’s for all formats. Strikeouts are great for pitchers, and walks are bad for them. And the opposite holds true for hitters. Starting pitchers hold more value in points leagues than any other format. When you look at points format rankings, you’ll find more starting pitchers in the upper echelon of rankings. The reasoning is because you are rewarded simply for pitchers recording outs and you’re rewarded handsomely with strikeouts. If an out is worth one point, and you get a bonus point for striking a hitter out, then you, as the fantasy manager, will receive two points simply for the strikeout. Elite pitchers go deep into games, collect strikeouts, minimize damage, and put themselves in situations to win games. So let’s say you have Jacob deGrom and you play in a league that rewards 0.75 points per out and seven points for a win. If deGrom goes seven innings, allows two earned runs on five hits, two walks, with a strikeout per inning then you’re looking at about 18-20 points. And I was being conservative with his strikeouts because he could easily collect more. The most dominant pitching performances can reward 30 points and for elite pitchers that get your two starts per week, you’re looking at quite the return. As much as I may preach streaming pitchers, that doesn’t mean you should overlook the studs available in your draft. If you can get two aces then you’re providing yourself with a good floor each week and if you can build a foundation with five reliable starting pitchers each week then you’re off to a fantastic start. Starting pitchers get a bit a bump in points leagues so don’t be too surprised when they fly off the board.

Looking at strikeouts and walks when you can’t decide between two players whether drafting or scanning the waiver wire is a great way to make an overall decision. If looking to pick up a streamer or maybe a long-term play then go see who offers more strikeout upside. For hitters, it’s the opposite. Joey Votto was a fantastic points-league performer for many years because of his plate discipline. It’s rare that you’ll find hitters with a higher walk rate than strikeout rate, but if you can find a hitter that negates the strikeouts with walks then that’s a plus. Over his last ten seasons, Votto has boasted a walk rate of at least 15% in nine seasons with a similar strikeout rate. Nowadays, he’s not the hitter he once was. Among the league leaders in walk rate you’ll find the usual suspects: Juan Soto , Bryce Harper , Freddie Freeman , Ronald Acuña Jr. , Christian Yelich , etc. But there are other players you shouldn’t sleep on. Aaron Hicks has been a pretty solid points league gem the last four years given his decent walk rate. Even Mark Canha is a guy whose walk rate has gradually improved the last three years. Your heavy hitters will strike out plenty. When you’re swinging for the fences, you’ll whiff plenty of times and head right back to the dugout. But you can at least find players than can offset the strikeouts by getting on base via the free pass, which could lead to run scoring opportunities, and more points.