On this edition of the ‘The Scorer’s Table,’ the Commissioner joins in on the fun and takes on playoff previews with Imran. Check back tomorrow for the second instalment!
At the midseason mark, the Eagles looked like a struggling team. While not many people expected it to get worse, it just might have. Players have been assigned to playing away from their Golden Glove positions, Abbas M. somehow found himself on the mound, and Ali Kara has boosted his way to the top of the Kara rankings. How do you see this season of drama ending for the Eagles?
I: This season’s Eagles are the Boston Celtics of JMS. High hopes, promise, and a lot to bank on, but leaving the playoffs WAY earlier than expected. And much like Kyrie Irving’s hot astronomical takes, the Eagles have more than a few players that believe the world orbits around them. I truly believe the chemistry on this team has been fractured for a while now and rumours keep swirling that no one even knows who to report to. Lineups get flipped as soon as players arrive to the diamond and there’s multiple messages being spread in huddles. They have two of the top 3 players in the league, so there’s always a chance but I’m already expecting Manek to hog the shisha early on during the weekend as he joins the spectators.
M: This has always been a team to worry about. The Eagles have Asad Hussain and Ali Manek on the same team, that’s scary proposition for anyone to deal with. However, on paper versus on field performance are two different things. This team has struggled since they made the trade with me. Did I expect that, not really, I just wanted to get a stronger team on the field for me. I do expect that Imtiyaz Kara will play better. I also expect that this team will likely have one private huddle too many as they figure out who is supposed to be in charge. Abbas M. pitching as an experiment is as good an idea as it was having Hussain Habib – one of your best outfielders – playing 1st base. Let’s just call it a failed experiment and put people back where they perform best.
I do, however, expect them to rally and band together; but with as many voices as they have trying to be in charge, your guess is as good as mine as to whether that will translate to results on the field or not.
The Bucks are known to have that clutch gene everyone wishes to have, but this season feels like it might not have the same result. with Irfahn Khimji disappearing in the playoffs (this time, literally), the Bucks may have to rely heavily on their depth and reserves. Who do you see being the x-factor for this team if they were to repeat?
I: If you would ask captain Ali Raza Nasser how this season went, he’d probably just give you a shrug and walk away disappointedly. His only glimmer of hope has been with the Ali duo he seemingly discovered late in the draft. Both Hisham and Danial (reserve) have been consistently improving throughout the season and having played football with them, I know they don’t shy away from the spotlight. With Danial supposedly missing the playoffs, it’ll be on the shoulders of Hisham Ali to carry the middle/bottom half of the lineup. He’s already become one of the highest upside players in the league and has solidified himself as an underrated option at the shortstop position. While it’s obvious to expect AR, Nadim Rahemtulla, and Maysum Jaffer to show up this weekend, this multi-sport star will have his work cut out for him to keep this team afloat but I expect him to ball out.
PS: I thought about putting you, HAK, but I’m not even sure you’ll show up….
M: Let’s not forget about the missing Arif Hirji. This team just lost two of its best bats in an instant. They are starting with one foot underground and have to fight hard just to get themselves back to being on a level playing field with any of the other teams, let alone with the Eagles. In order for this team to repeat, someone will need to step up. In last year’s playoffs that player was Munir Nasser. Uncle Rocky came through in the clutch so many times over and over again. He played through injury – like many others on the team – and delivered. I expect that he’ll bring that same playoff fire this time around, but I’m looking at the oft forgotten Nabil Jetha. He’s had a rough year, but I know that his assistant captain Nadim Rahemtulla is pulling for him and wants to see him do well. Look for Nabil to be that unknown factor that surprises teams.
Azad Najfi vs. Riaz Champsi / Imtiyaz Kara / Abbas M. / Asad Hussain. consistency vs. a merry-go-round at pitcher. are you in the party that says a hot hand can win a game? or does showing a batter a few different looks add some strategy that could propel a team deep into the playoffs?
I: Like I said before, the dysfunction of the Eagles will continue to be their Achilles heel. No matter what you think of pitcher Azad Najfi, if the alternative is a carousel where two players who have never thrown a pitch in JMS game action are pitching late-season games… I rest my case. The thought of a Champsi–Kara pitching combo is enough to make this at least a little bit interesting, as both of them have proven that they can get it done even if for a short time. In a year of injury and absences, the Bucks have jumped on the back of Azad Najfi and having that consistency must be such a relief for captain Ali Raza Nasser. I couldn’t even tell you who would be on the mound if Azad wasn’t there…
M: Azad Najfi has these weird in-game moments. There are times where he struggles and will allow 10+ runs very quickly. Then there are other moments where he is the clear MVP. Since this question mentioned matchups, I figured I’d look to see how the batters indicated perform against Azad vs. their average.
Riaz Champsi – 0.500 (Below Season Average 0.556)
Asad Hussain – Didn’t play against the Bucks
Abbas Mohamedali. – 1.000 (Above Season Average 0.561)
Imtiyaz Kara – 0.600 (Above Eagles Season Average 0.478)
Based on that, it looks like Azad has struggled against the Eagles, and in particular the 4 names you’ve mentioned – with the exception of Riaz. But it’s all a very small sample. Conventional wisdom would indicate that the Eagles should be favoured in this one. However, it hurts the core of my being to cheer for Manek to win this one. So I’m going to say they’re due for a regression towards the mean, and that they’ll struggle against Azad this time around. Ultimately they have to hit the ball, and with Maysum and Ali Raza are out there patrolling the outfield, I don’t expect much to drop. All that said the most telling number is that Asad hasn’t played against the Bucks. I don’t know how you overcome that, but maybe they take a page from Riaz’s book and he doesn’t see a good pitch to hit. Should be a good one to start the playoffs with.