Our last day of articles is upon us. We find ourselves reading about the 1st place Lions who took an unconventional route to get to first place, but got there just the same. They have the bye in the first round and will anxiously await their second round opponent (one of the Eagles, Owls, Wolves, Falcons). For now we explore their year and the path that they took to finish at the top of our standings.
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The Lions were busy at the trade deadline making two trades with two teams. While we’ll touch on them briefly here, there is some in-depth analysis that we will cover in the rest of our deep dive that will go into the reasons the trade was successful for them.
- Imtiyaz Kara, Safder Jaffer, and Shahid Rahemtulla to the Falcons for Miqdad Jaffer, Arif Hirji, and Salman Jiwan
- Arif Hirji to the Wolves for Hasanain Panju
The trades were made on the trade deadline day (July 8, 2018) – after those trades the Lions have gone 8-2-1. Let’s see how the players that they have acquired have fared,
- Miqdad Jaffer – 11 GP, 0.409 AVG
- Hasanain Panju – 4GP, 0.571 AVG
- Salman Jiwan – 0GP, 0.000 AVG
For the players they traded:
- Imtiyaz Kara – 8GP, 0.500 AVG
- Shahid Rahemtulla – 9GP, 0.435 AVG
- Safder Jaffer – 2GP, 0.250 AVG
- Arif Hirji – 4GP, 0.636 AVG
On paper, it looks like the Wolves got the better player, and the Falcons got more games attended and better averages from those players. However, there’s more than just numbers to consider.
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: 391
Team AVG: 0.491
LOB: 82 (Runners Left on Base)
LOBi: 183 (Times the individual left runners on Base)
BA/RSP: 0.527 (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position)
GB%: 17.3 (% Ground Balls)
LD%: 48.6 (% Line Drives)
PU%: 6.0 (% Pop Ups)
FB%: 28.1 (% Fly Balls)
FPSw: 57.1 (First Pitch Swinging %)
While not as hot as the Tigers, coming into the playoffs they have won their last 3, and are coming into the playoffs as the hottest offensive team in the league. This analysis therefore has to focus on a few different things – what makes the Lions so strong offensively, how does their defence and pitching perform in comparison, and what prompted them to make the trade in the first place and how has it impacted the team.
We will start with the last point – what prompted the trade and does a team that was 1-1-1 at the time really need to make a trade. To really understand it, we have to revisit the games they played and what really prompted Asad and Zane Hussain to start looking at options. Game 1 was a 6-3 win against the Wolves, in which the team amassed 6 hits, none of them the XBH variety and they only won due to the 6 players that reached on Wolves errors. Game 2 was an 11-0 loss against the Eagles in which they got 2 hits and made 8 errors. Game 3 was a 10-10 tie against an Owls team that only had 7 players. Having gone from a previous season in which the team was undefeated relying on their offensive and defensive strengths to carry them all the way to finals, the season started off looking like one that was headed for a terrible finish.
We believe it was the way the games were played that ultimately forced the Lions to make a trade, and the team results afterward have been proof enough that it was successful for the Lions. While the individual players may not have been performing to the levels expected – intangibles like positional depth and chemistry have made enough of a difference.
However, chemistry is this nebulous thing. You know when you have it and when you don’t, but it’s never really clear what value it brings. So to really understand it, we wanted to do a before and after analysis of the Lions to see how things have changed. We’re going to stick with the numbers that are percentage based because given enough games the numbers that are based on aggregate sums will obviously exceed the previous ones.
- Team AVG: 0.266 – Best AVG – Altaf Champsi (0.444)
- Team SLG: 0.359 – Best SLG – Hussein Jiwan (1.000)
- Team BA/RSP: 0.318 – Best BA/RSP – Altaf Champsi (0.400 – 5 Opportunities)
- Team AVG: 0.535 – Best AVG – Damien Ramnauth (0.815)
- Team SLG: 0.850 – Best SLG – Asad Hussain (1.892)
- Team BA/RSP: 0.559 – Best BA/RSP – Damien Ramnauth (0.941 – 20 Opportunities)
So when you look at it like that there are two possible conclusions – (1) The Lions ended up where they probably should have and normalized their numbers, (2) The trade had some intangible benefits that paid off in a very tangible way. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, because the players they acquired haven’t really been performing at other worldly levels – most notable Miqdad Jaffer who had his average drop from 0.533 on the Falcons to 0.409 on the Lions – which is >300 points worse than the previous year.
However, every single player, without exception improved and did so in a big way. The After trade numbers are scary for any opponent. Having to deal with a constant onslaught of hitters that can place the ball, hit for power, and in the case of Asad Hussain are a risk to go out of the park in each AB is a mental struggle for any pitcher or defensive alignment. The Lions turned that offence into 156 runs for the year, 8 more than the closest second place team in the Tigers, and 24 more than 3rd place.
Pitching wise, the Lions typically feature Altaf Champsi (8-1). He’s not the most flashy pitcher out there, but he does what he’s supposed to do – keeps the ball on the mat, forces the batters to hit, and gets a steady supply of ground balls going to his shortstop Asad Hussain – who is able to turn balls that are sure base hits into what are now routine outs for him. His ratio of FB:GB hovers around 2:1, and with an outfield that consists of Zane Hussain, Tarik Kamel, and Damien Ramnauth, there really isn’t a lot of relief to be found. However, the biggest issue for the Lions has been attendance. They have not played with a full roster or even a rover for a majority of the season.
It’s worked to their benefit offensively as more of their bigger batters get a chance to hit more often, but to their detriment when bloopers are able to find the outfield grass and allow baserunners to reach safely. It’s an even bigger problem in a field like Bayview Reservoir where the outfield is that much bigger and that rover position becomes more critical. Whether that be the team playing with 4 outfielders or a rover, it allows for more coverage – which the Lions have not had.
This Lions team has more than one option on the mound – Miqdad Jaffer has made a start and come in for relief when the captains deem that a new look would be beneficial, and Tarik Kamel has come in for relief in a few spots to provide a further differentiator. In the playoffs, we can expect that the Lions strategy of staying with their ace in Altaf Champsi will prevail, and that the bullpen won’t be called upon unless things get tight.
The Lions do give up runs, having let 115 runs score on the year, they are typically beating teams with their offensive output and when games are close, they have been on the losing (or in at least 2 cases – the tying) side. For teams to be successful they will need to keep the score around that 8-10 run mark where it appears they are most susceptible, the outfield needs to be challenged as we can never be sure which version of Zane Hussain will appear, the one that catches everything in his vicinity or the one that keeps his eye on the ball until the bitter end.
This is a first place team, and they have played like it. Teams playing against them will be the underdogs and will be playing loose. They have shown that when they are tense they will perform like the 1-1-1 version of themselves prior to the trade and make mistakes and not be able to put any measure of consistency together. However, if they play loose and start swinging the bats well, then this is a team to be reckoned with.
The risk of playing on a big park is that hitters that would usually get stopped for a double may now be able to get an inside the park home run. This team has it’s fair share of snipers that can pick those gaps, so defensive alignments will need to keep that into account. As with all things, the key to down the Lions is to never really let them get any momentum.