Final 3 left to go, we come upon the Tigers. The Tigers have been on a tear to end the season going 6-1 in their last 7 games. At the start of the season we predicted that this team had the best team on paper and it took them about half the season, going 2-5 to start before they finally put it all together.
None – The Tigers have stuck with who they drafted and it’s been paying off for them as of late.
Please note these stats do not account for any production by any players serving in a reserve capacity and reflect the team member’s output throughout the year, regardless of what team(s) they may have been on.
Team AB: 400
Team AVG: 0.470
LOB: 84 (Runners Left on Base)
LOBi: 182 (Times the individual left runners on Base)
BA/RSP: 0.482 (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position)
GB%: 18.2 (% Ground Balls)
LD%: 50.1 (% Line Drives)
PU%: 3.7 (% Pop Ups)
FB%: 28.0 (% Fly Balls)
FPSw: 51.3 (First Pitch Swinging %)
The Tigers, as mentioned, took a while to get going but have really been on for the last 7 games. They’ve been firing on all cylinders offensively and have had some defensive standouts – particularly in Bobby Bharwani who has held down the defensive side of the ball. However, their strength isn’t generally on their defensive prowess as they tend to give up a lot of runs having allowed nearly as many as they have scored. With a run differential of only 10, and amongst the top 5 teams they have let in the most runs.
They do have a formidable offence though, so this analysis will spend some time breaking down what makes them so strong offensively, we’ll also spend some time providing strategies to break them down, starting with their pitching and what gaps to target on the defensive side of the ball.
The Tigers have 5 batters hitting above .500 and only 4 batter hitting bellow .400 – just on that alone there’s a fair number of them that can make an impact on the offensive side of the ball. They also have all but 3 of their batters hitting at .400 or better with runners in scoring position. Furthermore, the offensive lineup is already optimized to give their best hitters the most chances. The odd number in the group is Nabeel Naqvi, who hits .571 with runners in scoring position but has also left the most runners on base at 28. He has had 21 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and converting at the clip he is bodes well for the team. Conversely, captain Umair Ali has had 24 plate appearances and hits at a .667 average when he has runners in scoring position – although he has left runners on base it’s only been 13 runners throughout the season.
The Tigers team slugging percentage is at at blistering .703, they have 58 XBH and 34 of those 58 come from 3 players – Vick Vij (10), Mahmood Kara (11), and Umair Ali (13). The 3 of them also generally bat one after the other in the lineup, so it can be imposing for opposing pitchers and defences alike. Neutralizing them is very challenging and the only relief (at least mentally) comes when you pass the 5 or 6 spot in the order.
They are even more challenging as they tend to cover the entirety of the field so defensive alignment becomes even more a concern.The RF alley seems to be the only place on the diamond where most of the players cannot stretch to, but a standard RF should still be kept busy given a typical offensive day. The alignment challenge happens right from the start of the lineup which generally features Maysum Jaffer who has been hitting the ball well (but doesn’t go too far into RF) and usually has the speed to make it to first base if an infielder should bobble even for a brief second. The defensive strategy that needs to be employed to be successful is to force them to places where their power isn’t, but to be successful the pitcher on the mound must be precise in their delivery. Anything in the middle of the mat will go wherever the offence desires, so it’s best to stick with a side (inside/outside) and have them hit to where the defence is the strongest.
The Tigers have only one option at pitcher – Azad Najfi. He’s fair reasonably well maintaining an ERA below 10 (8.66) and a WHIP below 3 (2.82). However, he tends to tire in longer series’ and will make his mistakes pitching short, rather than long. Most offensive teams haven’t realized this and they end up reaching for his pitches that are just short of the home plate mat. His pitches tend to be higher and come with backspin, meaning that any hit below the centre of the ball will result in a pop fly and with Vick Vij and Maysum Jaffer waiting in the outfield, that’s almost surely a caught ball for an out. This is further evidenced by the fact that he is 70% more likely to get a fly ball out than a ground ball one. The easy adjustment for batters on this one is to move much more forward on the mat so that they can hit those same short pitches in their power zone and can direct line drives at the defence.
However, let’s talk about he defence for a minute. Najfi has allowed 85 ERs, but 135 runs have been scored against the Tigers. Meaning 50 of the runs they have allowed have come via error. So this defence will allow a lot of runs. Their weakest position is easily the left side of the infield where they would need to be strongest. They’ve tried multiple options there but haven’t really had anything be successful in a longer period of time. Bobby Bharwani had a stint at 3B, but has moved over to 2B and is much more comfortable and dominating there. He’s proven to be one of the only defensive stalwarts that this infield possess. The outfield is also streaky – Farhan Ratansi, though hitting well, is as effective as a coin flip in the outfield. He has the speed to get to the balls, but sometimes arrives early and panics just before the catch. It can make for some spectacular catches, but can also make for some head scratching moments.
Powerful offence, and porous defence – the combination is particularly good for creating a team that should sit just at or above .500 which is where the Tigers find themselves. They are a streaky group, but the thing they lack above all else – a strong voice of leadership. Their leaders are quiet and tend to lead by example. To their credit they have been, both Vick and Umair lead their team in offensive categories, and Vick is the model defender in the outfield catching anything and everything near him. While that is a valuable tool for a captain to have, it may not be enough when the team faces turmoil.
They are all calm under pressure, but sometimes it forces onlookers to wonder if they even know that they are trailing. They could be up by 10 or down by 10 and nobody will cheer, raise their voices, or even show a modicum of emotion. Given their matchup against a Wolves team that will be looking to play with a strategy and a lot of emotion, that laissez faire attitude might be the Tigers undoing. They need to realize much earlier that they will need to make a push should the lose the lead; or they risk having 7 innings go by quickly and having their season end the way it started – without any fanfare.