With just one more day of articles left after this one, we find ourselves at the second place Bucks. The same Bucks that were in first place for the majority of the season until the final week of the year. They’ve taken the opposite track that the Tigers took. While the Tigers are red hot coming into the playoffs, the Bucks are ice cold and struggling to find their winning ways again.
None – The Bucks, too, have stuck with the team they drafted.
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: 421
Team AVG: 0.454
LOB: 96 (Runners Left on Base)
LOBi: 212 (Times the individual left runners on Base)
BA/RSP: 0.483 (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position)
GB%: 21.8 (% Ground Balls)
LD%: 51.0 (% Line Drives)
PU%: 2.0 (% Pop Ups)
FB%: 25.2 (% Fly Balls)
FPSw: 53.4 (First Pitch Swinging %)
The aforementioned Bucks have truly been in free fall. They have lost 4 of their last 5 games coming into the playoffs. They have lost to the Wolves, Owls, Eagles, and Lions – so it’s not just one team that has been beating them. Before that, they looked almost unbeatable and had first place secured early on in the season. The struggles have been from a number of places, and once we take a look at the various parts of their team makeup, we’ll start to understand what trend has emerged in the last 5 games that could facilitate that kind of collapse.
On paper, the Bucks have a treacherous lineup to pitch to – they start things off with Kabir Molu, follow with Nadim Rahemtulla, and then some combination of the Nasser brothers (Ali Raza and Imran), followed then by Minhal Jaffer. These 5 players should be able to score 5 runs each time they come up. When the season had begun, that’s exactly what they were doing. They started to unwind in the month of August – perhaps there was extended period of time away or an approach at the plate that shifted, but we did some game by game breakdowns to try and understand it.
We got to a very interesting set of conclusions. As a team, the batting average has remained relatively consistent throughout the year – it’s hovered around that .450 mark which as a collective is very impressive. However, those numbers are skin deep. We have to look further to understand some of the nuanced changes that occurred.
The Bucks before August 1 had a team BA/RSP at 0.516. They were taking advantage of every opportunity they had to score runs when runners presented them with the option. Additionally, they were swinging free and relaxed – attempting at the first pitch in 58.8% of cases 5.4% greater than their season average. The numbers take a marked turn after August 1st where their BA/RSP drops to a paltry 0.411 that’s 10.5% less opportunities being cashed in. The approach to the plate may be the key as the Bucks players seem to have gotten more patient and dropped their propensity to swing at the first pitch down to 43.1%. Again 10% below their season average and 15.7% less than their average during their winning ways.
This leaves us with a few different possibilities – the pitchers around the league got the memo that the Bucks swing early and often and started shifting to pitching a ball to start the lineup, or the Bucks as a team decided that they wanted to be patient and wait for the right pitch. The latter sounds like a good idea, and something that should pay off. However, the results seem to indicate that it was to their detriment as a collective. The most notable to have their clutch factor impacted are Minhal Jaffer (dropped from .455 to .250) and Nadim Rahemtulla (who dropped from a team leading .778 to an uncharacteristic .333). The lone exception is Ali Raza Nasser. Ali Raza was effectively carrying the team during this losing period and bumped up his BA/RSP to .750 from an already high .619.
When this team is successful, they are scoring runs and doing so at a good number. They can withstand one player’s slump because they have so many good bats. However, it looks like most of the order fell into a slump at the same time and it’s affected them very badly.
The Bucks pitching is lead and occupied single handedly by Sebastian Gianino. He has thrown every single one of the innings for the Bucks. He has good command of his pitches, and rarely makes a mistake. He has pitched the most innings, yet let up the fewest home runs. The defence behind him has been very strong, but also partially because he turns to let the defenders know where the ball is going. Having the ability to hit the mat where you need to can be a massive advantage to the defence and this has been the story for their team.
Gianino has a tendency to pitch short and relies on a back spin pitch that floats high. The height of the pitch, coupled with the spin causes one of two scenarios – batters to hit under and pop it up, or batter to hit over the ball and hit soft ground balls. He’s getting fly ball outs at an almost 3:1 rate over ground ball outs which plays to his advantage as the outfield is very formidable. The infield has switched recently moving Minhal Jaffer to a 2B role, and migrating Nadim Rahemtulla from 3B to SS. Nadim tends to pick up everything hit near him, but his lateral mobility is still undergoing rehabilitation. It hasn’t seemed to matter. Meanwhile with Nadir Virjee now playing 3B it makes the defence appear to much better. The right side of the field is where the hits can be had, but it becomes increasingly difficult to place a ball when the pitcher has the command that he does.
Their downfall is not in offence, not in defence, not in pitching. There was a reason they were in first place for so long. The downfall is actually in their mental approach and how they react when they play with nothing to defend. It seems the pressure of staying in first was the only other element that was added to the equation to start their descent into second place.
This team is still in second place. It’s not like they fell off the map, and they were but 1 win away from having first place all to themselves. The Bucks when they come to play, and don’t feel as though they are prey (Side note: We’re not sure how this happened, but the Bucks are literally the only prey animal that exists in our team names). This team will rise and fall not as Ali Raza Nasser does, but how they as a collective play. Though they have one player that is producing at a high level – the Bucks are not like the Eagles. For them to be successful multiple members of the team need to be firing on all cylinders. The job of carrying the team isn’t to be left to the captain – every player needs to contribute.
With a pitcher that can control the game, a defence that is more than up to the task, and an offence that can render any opposing pitcher weak – the Bucks should be the team to reckon with – and they were starting the season at 8-1. However, when they are more worried about what if scenarios and trying to out think their opponents they play like they deserve to be a last place team. Luckily we’ll get to see the 2nd place Bucks take on the last place Falcons, and we’ll get to see which version shows up.