Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playoff Preview #1 - (4) Strikes 'n' Spares vs. (5) Force

Between the commish and a ghost writer, here is the first preview of the 1st ever SABowl playoffs:

This match-up features two teams that are coming into the playoffs hot. SnS has not lost a match since week 5 and Force has not lost a single game the last three+ weeks. Some might say that this may be the best match-up of the entire playoffs; two equally matched teams that have depth. There is even talk that the top 2 teams with a bye this week are showing up just to see this series.

SnS came into the league week 2 and had a rough start. After their first few weeks of play, most people wrote off this team and expected them to be the league's doormat. After week 4, their average was 650, which was worst in the league by far. But counting this team out was clearly a mistake. Since week 5, not only has SnS not lost a series, they've rolled a much improved 728 average. Even more importantly, in the playoffs, total pins do not matter. So if they can keep their streak going for 3 more weeks, they will be the first ever champs.

SnS has no distinct leader. Yes, Mufty is their anchor, and Nadeem is their captain, but each week someone new steps up and puts up a big score. Out of all teams, SnS has the most bowlers who have eclipsed the 200 mark at least once this season (Mufthy, Raza, and Naeem). Attendance is not an issue for this team, they are so deep that if one of their bowlers is missing someone is there to step in and do well. You will alway find this team practicing during the week and before games and it shows as each player improves week to week.

Force took awhile to get things going. While having a great roster on paper, attendance issues and underwhelming play killed this team early on. For the first 6 weeks, this team looked like it was dead in the water with an unimpressive 691 average. But after week 6, they have looked like a completely different team. From week 7 onward, the team has bowled a 769 average. The team also has a 10 game winning streak, which is the longest in the league.

Force has had some monster 800+ games this season. Although they finished low in the standings, they are definitely a team to be feared. Lead by Prince who stepped up in the 2nd half (more on this later), the team really got going once Shumail and Alan started bowling up to their potential. Attendance HAS been a huge issues for this season, as their best five (Raheel, Bobby, Alan, Shumail, and Prince) have NEVER bowled together as a unit. If this happens on Sunday, and all 5 guys bowl to their capability, this may be too much for SnS to overcome.


Force vs. SnS - SnS 4 wins, Force 2 wins. Each team took the total pins once.

Game by game comparison - Excluding week 1, Force would be 19-11 against SnS.

Force - 727 season average, 872 max score
SnS - 705 average, 857 max score

2nd half averages (last 15 games of regular season):
Force - 769
SnS - 746

Team score for top 5 averages:
Force (Alan, Raheel, Bobby, Prince, Shumail) - 778.7
SnS (Nadeem, Raza, Naeem, Amaad, Mufthy) - 740.3

The stats do favor Force, but SnS has been by far the most clutch team in the league. They have the most wins by 10 pins or less. So SnS has a number of factors going for them beyond the scores and stats.

Likely player match-ups:

Bowler 1 - Roswell/James vs. Naeem

Roswell has been inconsistent at times, but he's been getting better as the season progressed. His average over the last few weeks has been closer to the 140 range. His season high series was this past week (464), and has a few games in the 160+ range.

James has been more consistent than Roswell, but has shown less upside. His average is virtually identical to Roswell's. In week 10, he took the league by storm inspiring as many JLin puns as you could think of; but outside of that, he's been consistently in the 120-130 range.

Naeem finished the season with his last 2 games being the best 2 games of the season (200 and 202). Even if you take out those games, his average is still in the 135 range. Although Naeem has bowled in less games than Roswell or James, he's been more consistent with the the better chance of bowling a monster game.

Advantage SnS

Bowler #2 - Bobby vs. Amaad

Bobby has quietly bowled a solid season. While he peaked early with a game of 189, and a series of 531, he finished the season with a 149 average. Bobby had a few low games, but most of his games were in the 140+ range. Consistent from the #2 spot in the lineup.

Amaad came onto the scene later on in the season, but has been very good in the few weeks he has shown. Had he qualified for the league leaders, he would have finished 13th. His high series was 495, which is lower than Bobby's. But his average is higher, with most of his games in the 150 range.

Advantage SnS

Bowler #3 - Alan/Raheel vs. Nadeem/Hamza

This match-up is the wildcard in this match. Both teams will likely use these pair of bowlers together for 1 (or 2) of these game, but in game 1, it's likely one of them will sit. That being said, the match-ups are still the wildcard in all this because these bowlers are the x-factors in this match.

Alan sports one of the league's biggest curveballs, and is the only bowler to use a true reverse curve on certain spares. He has also shown flashes of brilliance, as his best series is 564, with his best game being a 195. But he's also been inconsistent at times, struggling to get out of the 130's. He still finished with a 149.4 average though, which was 10th best in the league among those who qualified.

Raheel on the other hand is one of the leagues more experienced bowlers. But Raheel's value to Force goes beyond his bowling and solid average. While Prince is the captain, Raheel is the emotional leader, continually talking and trying to bring the best out of everyone. With a 147.7 average, he can also back up his motivation with excellent play.

Nadeem is the captain of SnS. He's done a great job throughout the season of juggling the roster, even taking himself out at times in order to make sure everyone got their needed work. But don't be fooled, Nadeem is still one of SnS's best bowlers. Nadeem has been very consistent as most of his series were in the 400 range. His season high was a 191, but has a few other games in the 160+ range.

Hamza has been a solid bowler for most of the season, but hasn't come much the last few weeks. So there is a chance he will be missing. His average of 136.6 is solid, but with not playing much lately, he's thrown in a few low games to drop his average. This won't get it done if Raheel and Alan bowl to their capabilities.

Advantage Force

Bowler #4 - Shumail vs. Raza

Both bowlers have had some great games. Both bowlers got a new ball mid-season. Both bowlers have had an off week, but finished the 2nd half very strong.

Shumail didn't qualify for the league leaders, but if he had, he would have finished 10th overall. By average alone, Shumail would win his match-up against any member of SnS.

Raza started off his season slow. But once he got it going, he's matched-up well with any teams #4 bowler (which is usually the team's 2nd best bowler).

The better analysis for this match-up is comparing their 2nd half averages (last 12 games), or when both players got used to their new ball:

Shumail - 177.6
Raza - 163.6

As good as Raza has been, Shumail has been better. Combine that with Shumail's experience in these situations, means that Raza will really have to step up. But he has shown to do just that when he (and his team) have been counted out.

Advantage Force

Anchors - Prince vs. Mufthy

While Mufthy has the lower average, he has been the most clutch on a very clutch team. In most of the close matches SnS has been in, it has been Mufthy who has ensured the victory with very strong 9th and 10th frames. Mufthy also bowled his highest game (243) and his highest series (596) against Force. SnS is hoping he repeats this feat again on Sunday. So even though Mufthy didn't finish the season as strong as he would have liked, in any close match, SnS will have the utmost confidence in him stepping up and getting the job done.

As for Prince, after a slow start, the quiet leader of Force finished the season on a tear. The commish was in a "bowling ball scandal" with the Pin Pals. But while people joke about that, the stats are very telling. Just like Raza and Shumail, Prince's average skyrocketed with the new ball:

Before (18 games) - 154.1
After (15 games) - 193.9

Both have been great anchors for their team, and both bowlers are in the top 10 among league qualifiers. While Mufthy has turned more heads with his dynamic finishes, Prince has been the better bowler, and surprisingly by a decent margin.

Advantage Force

Summary and Prediction:

Expect all 3 games to be extremely close and most likely come down to the 10th frame, and who can close when it counts. The first two games will be split between the two teams leading to an exciting winner take all 3rd game. The winner will be decided based on the team that Force has on the lane. If they have their top 5 bowlers, expect them to take the match and advance to the semis. That being said, SnS has been chosen as the underdog the last few weeks and each week they come through with the upset. Looks like they're getting the prediction they wanted.

Prediction: Force wins the series 2-1

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