We enter into the last week of the season, and though there is some separation between the top and bottom of the standings, it’s still wide open for who finishes where. Let’s take you through this last week, sprinkle in some stats you haven’t been paying attention (or privy) to, and give you our take. As this is the last week of the regular season we wanted to take some time to point out some players that have been standouts, as well as some that have been largely absent – even when present.
Game 1 – Owls vs Tigers
The day kicks off at 8AM, bright and early as we make our return to Nobleton. Everyone is tired of hearing the same old tired story about how Asad Nasser won’t make this game because it’s early, so we won’t bore you with that obvious detail. We will however say that should the playoffs start tomorrow and a morning game is scheduled for the Owls, you can expect that he will sleep train himself like a baby throwing a temper tantrum to ensure he can make it on time. Unfortunately, for the Owls it’s not the playoffs just yet. As a result, expect that Mohammed Walli will make the start in this one.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have the opposite problem, most of them have bowel movements in the early hours of the morning that wake them up early enough for this game. The guess here is that they’ll bring their full squad, minus Abbasali Kermalli who will be unavailable. The one player they need though is Altaf Champsi – there’s been a pitching experiment going on all year as the Tigers alternate between Altaf and Azmat Mehrali in the pitching position and the Tigers have fared well regardless of who is on the mound. However, the numbers show how dominant Altaf has been, he’ll likely be their playoff starter, but the rest of the Tigers team will need to play with their usual prowess for them to avoid a trap game and an early day struggle.
Speaking of struggle, Kumail Meghani – captain of the Owls, self proclaimed pitcher of the year to have barely thrown a pitch. He seems to have been coasting this year and doesn’t really have a lot to show for it. He started the season with a renewed sense of bravado as he declared that his Owls team was the one to be beat and they would make a run in the playoffs. However, just as on most days, maybe Kumail will be showing up just on time. We expect his arrival to happen this week. Look for a reversal of trends as the Owls come out flying in this one. They need to make a statement more than most and this is their best chance against one of the league’s best.
Let’s see if there’s a twist of fortunes for the Owls in this one and they can take advantage of the Tigers who will likely have to adjust their offence and defence to deal with the absence of AK.
Kumail Meghani average with runners in scoring position: 0.300
Rest of the Team: 0.458
Altaf Champsi Batting Average Against: 0.465
Azmat Mehrali Batting Average Against: 0.516
Prediction: 13 – 7 Owls
Game 2 – Eagles vs Owls
The Eagles are coming off their worst loss of the season, probably ever but I don’t want to look back at the stats to confirm. The worst part about it, wasn’t that they lost 14-0, wasn’t that they had to have Asad Hussain pitch, it was that they had 7 players for most of the game. Weddings happen and these are the struggles of a league that plays on the weekends. However, the show must go on and for the Eagles they’re likely going to be very hungry for a win. Seeding is now important and for the Eagles they are within striking distance of 4th or even 3rd place if things go well for them. That means home field advantage in a lot of playoff games, and a chance to stay on the opposite side of the bracket to whomever finishes in first place. Asad Hussain will likely sit this one out, so expect Ali Manek to come out ready to play. The problem with this Eagles team though is they perform very poorly with runners in scoring position, also they haven’t seen the offensive production from the trade they were hoping for with Imtiyaz Kara struggling to put together consistent outings and adding to the struggles in clutch moments. One player who has come through in the clutch and at the plate is Ali Kara who boasts a 0.526 OBP and a BA/RSP of 0.500, for reference Imtiyaz Kara has a 0.524 OBP and a BA/RSP of 0.300 – I guess we know who the better Kara is on the Eagles.
For the Owls, if they won the morning game, this win could propel them as high as 4th. It would require huge wins by then and huge losses by the Bucks to go any higher in the standings, so we believe their ceiling is 4th. This has to be a chance for them to decide if they’re ready for the playoffs. As much as we believe they’ll put together an effort in game 1 against the Tigers, this has to be the opponent they have circled. Noor Zia is someone that has been carrying the load, and if you read our Scorer’s Table article, then you know that he’s in contention for the ROY. However, winning an individual award on a team that finishes in last and ends the season on potentially an 8 game losing streak has got to be depressing. The word is that the Owls captain contingent is quiet, they prefer to lead by example and not by really talking to their players. While Noor has lead by example, it doesn’t seem to be getting the message through. This team has some players, but when your first round pick, Kabir Molu, is hitting below 0.400 something needs to spark them to get them going.
Look for the Eagles to take this one as Ali Manek will look to assert his offensive dominance and push Umair Ali for that home run title.
Owls On Base Percentage (Including Errors): 0.505
Noor Zia On Base Percentage (Including Errors): 0.767
Eagles Season Team Average: 0.488
Ali Manek On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS): 1.653 (Team Lead)
Prediction: 11 – 9 Eagles
Game 3 – Tigers vs Wolves
So those games before this one would be classified as the appetizers for the day, this game would be the main course. I say would be, and not will be, because the Wolves are struggling with some key injuries right now. Irfaan Jaffer is in a sling, Minhal Jaffer is limping around so slowly that even a hit to the warning track resulted in an out at 1B. With their starting SS out, the Wolves will do what they’ve been doing all season, adjust and call in their ace. Aman Nasser will likely see the mound in this one as Mikael Ratansi switches over to SS. This Wolves team has been really strong and they have shown their ability to band together and win games in bunches despite their injuries. The last time they played the Tigers – Aman Nasser pitched and the Wolves won 11-6. It’s only appropriate that this time around Aman will be playing and will be putting his 0.833 AVG on display at the plate. So maybe this game is the main course after all.
For the Tigers, if they lost the morning game, then this one is to stay in contention for second place. For the Wolves, this is their chance to make a push for 1st place. The Tigers will likely want to use this game to display how good they can be. They don’t have many holes in their lineup offensively speaking. Defensively they have some places for improvement. Though Abbasali Kermalli has been campaigning for a gold glove at 3B, hitting the ball in his direction is usually a good way to get on base safely. Sure it might result in a ROE being added to your stats, but that really depends on who is scoring ;-). Unfortunately for the Wolves, he won’t be there this week, so they might need to look elsewhere. The outfield also looks very different when Vick Vij isn’t patrolling in CF, but on the bigger field the other fielders may struggle to cover ground. Defence is what’s going to keep this team in games long enough to let their bats get going, and when they do get going, this team can put up runs in bunches.
As good as both teams are, Aman Nasser is the X-Factor. With him on the mound, we expect that this one will be skewed heavily in favour of the Wolves.
Tigers On Base Percentage Including Errors (OBPE): 0.574
Tigers OBPE Against Aman: 0.469
Wolves Team OBPE: 0.530
Wolves Team OBPE Against the Tigers: 0.600
Prediction 11 – 7 Wolves
Game 4 – Eagles vs Bucks
This is a potential playoff preview as these two teams could end up 4th and 5th seeds and start off the playoffs against each other. The Bucks haven’t seen a consistent line up all season, and it’s left captain Ali Raza Nasser scrambling. Even at the time of writing this article, half the team isn’t sure they’ll be making it to the games tomorrow. To add injury to insult, it looks like Arif Hirji is going to be out for the season with an achilles injury – we pray for his speedy recovery. So while the Bucks figure out who on their roster will show up, did you know Salim Chagani plays on the Bucks?!?, the Eagles are looking to get through to the playoffs unscathed and injury free. Let’s break this down so we can understand how inconsistent this team has been for attendance. Only 3 players have attended all the games, 3 other players have attended all but 1 game, and 1 player has missed just one week (2 games). That means that at least 7 players are there for most of the games. The reserves on this team have played in 8 games combined, and will likely be needed this week. And there are 2 players that need to attend this week’s games to be eligible for playoffs. Needless to say they’ve been inconsistent and it’s making it hard for them to get any kind of momentum.
Even with some of their struggles this season, any team that has both Ali Manek and Asad Hussain on them is not a team you want to play in the playoffs. That being said, nobody can really be sure which version of the team will show up. So this game represents an opportunity for them to get their defensive assignments understood, and let the outfielders figure out how to play on the larger Nobleton field. Many of their players are able to hit regularly, but this larger field might open up some opportunities for those players that like to hit down the lines and can take advantage of the open space. Look for players like Riaz Champsi and Imtiyaz Kara to be the players that abuse defences on the larger field. We’ve already talked a lot about the Eagles in the previous review, but here’s one fun statistic that we haven’t shared – of the 3 players (still on the Eagles) that have pitched for them – Riaz Champsi, Imtiyaz Kara, and Asad Hussain. Asad is the one with the best batting average against at a low 0.429 (Riaz – 0.500, Imtiyaz – 0.545) – sure it’s a small sample, but numbers are fun :-).
Eagles Leader in BA/RSP: 0.722 (Abbas Mohammedali)
Eagles Leader in RPA: 0.784 (Ali Manek)
Bucks Leader in BA/RSP: 0.800 (Nadim Rahemtulla)
Bucks Leader in RPA: 0.884 (Ali Raza Nasser)
At least for the Bucks, they’re top guys are performing and this means a dangerous team. We’re expecting them to come alive a little bit as we get closer to the playoffs, so we’ll give this W to the Bucks.
Prediction: 9 – 7 Bucks
Game 5 – Falcons vs Wolves
More than half way through and these are getting exhausting to write. However, you know who should be exhausted – Umair Ali – he’s literally been carrying this Falcons team on his back. Let’s just see how ridiculous a season he’s been having. Umair has more XBHs (18) than 77.5% of the league has in total hits! He has more RBIs (39) than the next two top players in RBI do combined (38)! He has nearly double the amount of HRs (9) as second place (5). He’s had a ridiculous season to say the least, one last stat his team has as many wins (4) as the last place Owls! So that last one hurts, but individual success doesn’t always translate to team success in this game. For Umair, as great of a season as he’s been having, he needs to find a way to get the rest of the team involved and participating. While games have been close all season long, the Falcons lack the ability to close out and win games in the late innings. Looking up and down the roster, there aren’t many weaknesses, the team has been built quite well. They reached early on the reserve front grabbing Zane Hussain in the 2nd round, but as he’s not available for the playoffs they’re going to need to get the rest of the positions solidified.
Meanwhile, we come to the Wolves – if they lost the first game, then this means little to nothing to them and they’ll likely use this game for practice or to give Mikael Ratansi a sporting chance at that pitcher of the year award. If they did win the previous game, then this one means a lot to them as it puts them in first place with a win. The Lions would still only need a win or tie in their next two games to hold on to first place, but this is a chance for the Wolves to put some real pressure on them. Based on the cursory glance at team snap we might have a Saleem Rustam sighting tomorrow – he currently leads the league in slugging percentage as he took advantage of the small field with his big swing. Unlikely that he’ll have the same results on the bigger field, but it’s clear that he’s a player and will yield results for the Wolves. This will be a chance to see how deep the Wolves roster can go and for the reserves to get some work in.
With this depleted a roster and a Falcons team looking to make a statement, we expect that the Falcons will likely take this one and end the Wolves chance at first place.
Umair Ali OPS: 2.509
Falcons Team OPS: 1.153
Wolves Team RBIs: 99
Minhal + AAdil RBIs: 39
Prediction: 13 – 10 Falcons
Game 6 – Bucks vs Lions
This game features a chance for Imran Nasser to show how far he’s come since last year’s championship run on the Bucks last year. He was a gold glove centre fielder that has made the transition over to shortstop this year. One of the most difficult positions to play on the field, and he’s not only played it well, he’s made a case for himself to be in consideration for a gold glove there as well. Further to that, if you thought his bat was good last year, it’s been considerably better this year. Seems he’s only gotten better. This is a chance for him to showcase how complete this team is with him at the helm, as he’ll have to lockdown first place without the services of Miqdad Jaffer again. Last time the Lions went 2-0 without him, begging the question do they even need him? The way this roster is constructed everyone is able to play multiple positions, and able to hit for reasonable to above average offensive numbers. In a small field, this team is full of singles, but in the larger field, they can take advantage of gaps and the bigger field to produce a lot more extra base hits. The outfield defence leaves a lot to be desired as, in the absence of Miqdad, it’s made up entirely of rookie outfielders looking to find their way.
The Bucks on the other hand will be looking to make their presence felt as they are the defending champions. Just because they lost their version of Kawhi Leonard (Imran), doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be able to mount a title defence and run of their own. For that to happen though, they need a consistent roster and some reps together as a team. Ali Raza is looking to his squad to come through for him and put together some consistent innings. The one consistent factor has been that of Azad Najfi. When he’s been on, he holds the opposing offences to single digit run totals, and hets the defence a lot of easy outs to keep their momentum going. He, too, relies on attendance and the correct defensive alignments for those balls to go from base hits to outs. Hisham Ali at SS is a must have as he’s been putting together a gold glove worth season of his own. This game provides us the chance to see who the better SS really is.
All that said, it’ll be tough for the Bucks to win this one as the Lions are red hot going into the playoffs. They’re playing loose and that’s always dangerous for any opponent.
Lions Extra Base Hits: 50
Miqdad + Imran XBHs: 21
Azad Najfi BAA: 0.467
Bucks XBHs: 31
Prediction: 11 – 8 Lions
Game 7 – Lions vs Falcons
Last game of the day and this one likely means nothing for both teams. There are some injuries that are likely going to be looked to be avoided, so if the Lions win the previous game, expect that they’ll have some weird lineups and positioning for this one. We might even get to see Ranko Cupovic play the OF. The risky part about this type of game is that the bats are freer than ever, so for the Falcons that means playing with a team that probably doesn’t care and will either be hitting for average, or hitting for power. If it’s the latter, then expect a lot of pop outs in this one and a short lived game. The player to look out for in this one is Abbas Nasser, he’s been a completely different player since moving to the Lions. He went from a batting last in the Eagles lineup with a batting average in the 0.300s to now hitting in the 5 spot and batting at 0.750 on the Lions. Whatever was said to him when he arrived seems to have worked. He’s the player that needs to stay within himself for it to continue, the second he thinks he’s going to start hitting big is the second that streak stops.
Hussein Allidina will be the one tasked with shutting down the Lions and getting ready for the playoff run. He was disappointed last year as his Eagles team imploded in what was the most important game of their season. He pitched 7 walks in that game and hasn’t really been able to move on successfully from that game. He’s going to need to do his best to prevent that type of mishap from happening again this year. The good part is that the Falcons aren’t the type of team to implode. Any team with Damien Ramnauth on it will likely be playing loose, free, and with a heavy dose of laughter. While this game will mean very little for either team, it’ll likely be a fun one to watch. You can expect a few 5 run innings from both sides, and probably one of the higher scoring games of the season, we’ll give this one to the Falcons though, but it could easily go either way.
Abbas Allidina BAA : 0.454
Miqdad Jaffer BAA: 0.455
Falcons XBHs: 47
Falcons TripLes + Homeruns: 17