Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playoff Preview #2 - (3) Strike Kings vs. (6) Asian Sensation

The 2nd wildcard preview also features two teams who are coming to the playoffs in a similar fashion. But unlike the Force vs. SnS match-up, these two teams are backing their way into the playoffs. The last time either team won a series was week 8. Both teams have been missing a key contributor since then (Jason and Jin), but it's very likely both teams will be at full strength.

Asian Sensation came into the league as relative unknowns. They've had SASL veterans Khaled, Amin, and Khalil, but no one knew about their bowling abilities. But they came out of the gates hot, winning all but one series the first 5 weeks. However, after week 5, they've only won 1 series. Which is a little surprising, given their improvement. Over the first half of the season, their average was a respectable 672.1. But in the 2nd half, they improved to a 726.6 average, yet they only have a handful of wins to show for their improvement.

They play a balanced team style, with Khaled as their clear anchor. After Khaled, they have very capable bowlers in Jin and Yash. Power bowler Adam has also done well at times, and Amin, Khalil, and Latif have been more than respectable #4 and #5 bowlers. The team's main problem has been consistency. One week they look like they can hang with anyone, the next week they're struggling to bowl a 700 team series. Khaled has done his best to carry the team through their rough stretches, but he has been asked to do too much as Jin has been missing, and Yash has dropped off considerably since his mid-season hot streak. If Asian Sensation can get back into mid-season form, and Khaled continues to bowl as well as he has, this team could be primed to make a run. But who is going to step up and follow Khaled's lead?

The Strike Kings came in with high expectations, as Jason and Don were touted as 2 prime time bowlers. They have not disappointed. Jason led the league with a 205.4 average, while Don finished in 3rd with a 194.6 average. When one "struggles," the other usually has a 200+ game to make up for it. By far they have been the most dominant 1-2 punch in the league. For the first part of the season, it was wondered if this team could have been beat in a series.

Enter the (possible) downfall of the Strike Kings. When your top 2 bowlers are as good as Jason and Don, of course a team will have a drop to the #3 bowler. It was said that if anyone on the team could step up and be a legitimate #3, that this team would be difficult to beat. But no one has stepped up. They've managed to get away with it to some degree, as they have the highest league average. But that is a misleading as Jason and Don have had great attendance, meaning the team was guaranteed approximately 400 pins. Which means as long as the other 3 bowlers rolled around 110 pins each, they would hit the 730 mark. Towards the end of the season, when all the teams got better, their lack of depth was exposed. In order to ensure a playoff run, they're going to need more than just Jason and Don.


Strike Kings vs. Asian Sensation - Strike Kings 5 wins, Asian Sensation 1 win. Strike Kings won total pins in both meetings.

Game by game comparison - Excluding week 1, Strike Kings would be 23-7 against Asian Sensation

Strike Kings - 755 average, 850 max score
Asian Sensation - 697 average, 808 max score

2nd half averages (last 15 games of regular season):
Strike Kings - 756.4
Asian Sensation - 726.6

Team score of the top 5 averages:

Strike Kings (Yasser, Ammad, Arshad, Don, Jason): 779.2
Asian Sensation (Jin, Yash, Amin, Adam, Khaled): 727

While in the playoffs anything can happen, none of these stats are good for Asian Sensation.

Likely Player Match-ups:

Bowler #1 - Arshad vs. Amin

Arshad's average is slightly skewed, as he bowled two games under 100, dragging his average down by a decent margin. Take those games out, and his average is about a 130, which is okay from a team's 5th best bowler. In his last 11 games, his average is 136.5, which means he has slightly improved. But he has still been relatively inconsistent.

Amin is one of Asian Sensation's sparks. He's not afraid to tell his teammates to step up, and he's not afraid to let people know when his team is doing well. His average has come from consistent games in the 130s. If he has a big game though, it sets the tone nicely for the rest of the squad. But it's comforting to know that you're likely getting at least 130 from him no matter what.

Advantage Asian Sensation

Bowler #2 - Nisar vs. Adam

Nisar has been extremely consistent, with most of his series in the 370-380 range. The only issue is that series in that range are only good for about a 125 average. He has also only shown slight improvement during the season. Although he did bowl his highest game of the season (185) last week, so maybe it's a sign of things to come.

Adam might throw the ball faster than anyone in the league. What makes that even scarier is that he claims he's holding back when throwing it. He doesn't use finesse in his shots, which does leave a few open frames, but he can strike easily when he finds his spot. His average over his last 15 games is 147.8, so he has shown good improvement. At times, he's been the 2nd best bowler on his team.

Advantage Asian Sensation

Bowler #3 - Ammad vs. Jin

Ammad has had quite an interesting season. Admitting that he's a novice bowler, he has worked hard in changing his approach on strike and spare shots. But his results have truly been mixed. Ammad has bowled a number of games in the 140+ range. But he's also bowled games hovering around the 100 mark. Can't expect too much more than 130 out of him. But he is the swing bowler in this match-up. If he can reach a 150 average for the day, that will likely ensure a Strike Kings sweep.

Jin has also had an interesting season. He burst onto the scene in week 2 with a 186 game. After week 6, Jin was the 10th best bowler in the league among players who qualified. But that's where things changed. Jin has only bowled 5 games since then, and he failed to break 140 in all 5 games. The old Jin is absolutely needed if Asian Sensation has any chance of pulling off the upset. Jin is the x-factor in this match. If he can bowl some of his top games (he's bowled over 155 6 times, so he's capable), he gives Asian Sensation a fighting chance.

Slight advantage Strike Kings

Bowler #4 - Yash vs. Don

Not the position Yash wants to find himself in. He's been struggling lately, and now he has to match-up against the league's #3 bowler. Yash's season can be broken into thirds:

First 11 games: 127.4 average
Middle 12 games: 166.6 average
Last 9 games: 137.4 average

Yash HAS to return to that 166.6 average. When Yash was posting and trash talking on the boards, he was at his best. Once he quieted down, his game did as well. Maybe a loss of confidence has taken place. But the problem is, even if he returns to that 166 average, it won't be enough. Yash needs a career week in order to win this match-up.

Not only has Don been one of the league's best bowlers, he's also one of the most consistent. To get a sense of just how good Don has been, here are a few great stats:

Don's lowest game? 173, which is 10 pins more than Khaled's average.

Don's lowest series? 550, which is still a 183.3 average.

The number of times Don has bowled in the 170's? Only 5 times. Which means 28 of his games are 180 or higher.

Sorry Yash, this one isn't even close no matter how you look at it. This is the biggest advantage of any individual match-up in the first round.

MAJOR advantage Strike Kings

Bowler #5 - Jason vs. Khaled

Jason has been by far the league's best bowler. He's the only bowler to average over 200, and strikes more than any bowler in the league. He has broken the 190 mark a remarkable total of 14 times, or more than half the number of games he has bowled in. The only knock on his game is that he'll get a few more splits than the other top bowlers. But since he strikes more than anyone else, he more than makes up for it.

Khaled has been continually labeled (by me) as the league's best bowler that no one knows about. He came out of nowhere to finish as the #8 bowler in the league. Like many others, he got a new ball sometime during the season. But like only a few others, his average took a huge leap once he got used to the new ball:

First 14 games: 146.4
Last 15 games: 179.6

Khaled has shown he can go head-to-head with any top bowler in the league. He's even stepped his game up and cracked the 200 mark 4 times. But he's going to have to do it at least twice this week to keep his team alive.

Advantage Strike Kings

Summary and Prediction:

The question is can Asian Sensation take 1 game and force a game 3, where anything can happen. While they have more depth than the Strike Kings, their downfall is no real #2 bowler. The 'other 3' of the Strike Kings has been questioned throughout the season, but they likely won't be needed to step-up. Given how consistent Jason and Don are, we won't have to worry about their performance. So as long as the other members of the Strike Kings do their job, the pressure is completely on Asian Sensation. As much as we all love the story of the underdog, there's no analysis that shows a winner-take-all game 3 to take place.

Prediction: Strike Kings sweep 2-0

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