The Pin Pals took a few weeks to get it going, but once they did, they took the league by storm. Ayaz brings a lot of bravado, but his team (along with him) can back up any talk they throw out there. They have bowled the league's highest team game (892), finished 2nd in average (742), and held the #1 seed for more weeks (6) than any team this season. They also possibly have the deepest complete team in the league.
What makes this team even more interesting is that their stats are somewhat misleading. Asif missed 3 of the last 4 weeks. Riz has been missing in action for a number of weeks. Ayaz had to miss a few weeks as well. But showing true leadership, Ayaz was not concerned about any of this; as he knew what he was up against this season. Once his team made a run, all they had to do was hold on, and they'd still clinch a first round bye.
The Pin Pals had their best run in the middle of the season. From weeks 2-8, their attendance was at it's best. Their average over that 5 week span was 776.8. No team had a greater 5 week average this season. More on stats below.
The Strike Kings already got their intro in the wildcard round. In the wildcard round, Asian Sensation was able to take them to 3 games. Barring Ammad's season high performance, Asian Sensation was primed to make the upset. While gaining pressure packed experience is always a good thing, the fact is they are facing a better team in the semi-finals. To win this series, the Strike Kings will have to show more depth than they've had all season. Either that or Jason and Don will have to bowl career high series (which isn't impossible for these two).
Strike Kings vs. Pin Pals - Pin Pals 2 wins, Strike Kings 1 win. Pin Pals won total pins.
Game by game comparison - Exlcuding week 1, Strike Kings would be 16-14 vs. Pin Pals
Pin Pals - 742 average, 892 max score
Strike Kings - 755 average, 850 max score (865 if wildcard round included)
2nd half averages (last 15 games of regular season):
Pin Pals - 733.1
Strike Kings - 756.4
Team score of the top 5 averages:
Pin Pals (Dave, Riz, Moe, Ayaz, Asif): 801.1
Strike Kings (Yasser, Ammad, Arshad, Don, Jason): 779.2
Tough to call based on the stats, especially given the attendance issues for the Pin Pals. The fact that the teams are virtually .500 against each other also says a lot.
Likely Bowler Match-ups:
Bowler #1 - Chris vs. Arshad
Chris has primarily been the lead-off bowler for the Pin Pals. He's done a respectable job, with a 134.7 average. The downside is that Chris's best week was in week 1. He has also not shown much improvement. That being said, he doesn't usually have much pressure on him as he know his teammates will bowl big teams. That means at any time, Chris could roll a high game seemingly out of nowhere.
Arshad continued to show his inconsistencies in the wildcard round. He bowled a 146 in game 1, but was quiet the rest of the way. Although his 2nd half average was a 136.5, that puts him right at what Chris has done for the season. While Arshad has bowled some nice games, he usually follows them up with something relatively low.
Advantage Pin Pals
Bowler #2 - Dave vs. Nisar
Dave is one of the league's true power bowlers. Only Adam might get the ball down the lane faster. Dave's average was a 137.6 this season. His 2nd half average is a 138, which means he was consistent all season long. This means the Pin Pals can expect a series of slightly above 400 at worst.
Nisar was once again consistent in the wildcard round. But just like during the season, he was consistently bowling lower scores. His highest score in the wildcard round was a 122. He's going to have to step-up and win his match-up for Strike Kings to have a chance.
Advantage Pin Pals
Bowler #3 - Moe vs. Ammad
The Pin Pals could very well go with Riz in any of the first 3 spots, but we haven't seen him lately, so we'll assume that Ayaz will go with Moe in this spot. Moe burst onto the season about halfway through the season with his unique style of bowling. Not only does he have a huge curve, but he chucks the ball 1/2 the way down the alley as well. He averaged a 154 for the season, which gives the Pin Pals great depth to combat the likes of Jason and Don.
Ammad will once again be the X-factor in this match. He had the same label in the wildcard round, and after a slow start, came through big time. He bowled his 2nd highest series of season, and bowled back-to-back 150+ games for the first time this season. But given who he's up against, he's going to have to bowl 3 150+ games just to break even.
Advantage Pin Pals
Bowler #4 - Don vs. Ayaz
Although Ayaz has bowled most of the season as the anchor, he has the 2nd highest average on the team, so for our purposes, we will match him up against Don. The outspoken leader of the Pin Pals has brought it all season long. Minus one dud game, his lowest game of the season was a 146. An even better stat for Ayaz's game, he's only bowled 4 games below 160. Ayaz also finished his season strong, looking at the splits:
First 12 games - 177.2
Last 15 games - 185.6
The playoffs are right up Ayaz's alley (pun intended). He is one to bring on the big challenges, and absolutely loves the spotlight (people at the other side of the alley know when he's bowling well). While he's going to bowl at least a 180 average, expect him to kick his game into high gear.
With Don, we don't have to expect him to kick his game into high gear at all. We've already seen him do it. With the Strike Kings collective backs against the wall, Don bowled games of 202 and 213. We also know that Asian Sensation tried to distract Don and throw him off his game, thinking that it would work in their favor. That plan totally backfired, as it only inspired Don really bring out his A game.
This will be a great match-up of contrasting styles. While I expect Ayaz to step his game up, I don't expect Don to be outdone either.
Advantage Strike Kings
Bowler #5 - Asif vs. Jason
Asif quietly goes out and gets the job done week after week. Similar to Ayaz, outside of one dud game, his lowest game of the season was a 145. He also has bowled only 4 games below 160 as well. What allowed him to finish the season higher than Ayaz was the number of 200+ games he's had. Overall, Asif has bowled 7 games over the 200 mark, including the league's second highest game of the season (266). Asif's splits are as follows:
First 12 games: 178.6
Last 12 games: 189.1
What makes the splits even more impressive is that when Asif came back from a 3 week absence, he was still able to average a 181 series. While this would beat most any other bowlers, going up against the MVP is a whole 'nother ball game.
Hands down, Jason proved why he was the league's best bowler last week. In the Strike Kings 2 elimination games, he bowled games of 207, and 259. Depth be damned, Jason was making sure an upset was not going to happen in game 3.
When the MVP talks, people listen. Jason himself was curious about his split stats, so here they are:
First 15 games: 211.9
Last 15 games (including wildcard round): 198.6
Jason's 2nd half average is weighted down by rolling a 512 series for one of the weeks. Take that week out, and his 2nd half average is really a 205.6. Either way, Jason has been really good, all season long.
Supposedly Asif requested the match-up of going up against the league's MVP. Which made me look at their scores when they bowled each other in week 5. What I found may surprise some people:
Jason week 5: 638 series
Asif week 5: 636 series
So Asif did match up well with Jason. But the problem is, that series was Asif's season high, and Jason still beat him. To add insult to injury, Jason has bowled 2 series higher than that. The bigger problem for Asif? Checking out every week that both players bowled (7 series in total), Asif would be 1-6 against Jason. Moral of this story? Be careful what you wish for...
Advantage Strike Kings
Summary and Prediction
While I may have been harsh on Asif in that last match-up, the fact of the matter is that any bowler in the league would lose in a 1 on 1 situation against Jason. Asif is one of the few bowlers that can come close to breaking even with him. Regardless, the winner of this series will not come down to Jason or Asif. It won't be on Don or Ayaz either.
The series is all about team depth. Even though the Strike Kings have an advantage in their #4 and #5 bowlers, their advantage is relatively minimal. So with the big players cancelling each other out, it's going to come down to the #1-3 guys stepping up. While Ammad is still the X-factor, he still likely gets cancelled out by Moe (and that's at best for the Strike Kings). That really leaves Chris and Dave vs. Arshad and Nisar. Chris and Dave have been in this spot before, and they're higher ranked bowlers. You do the math.
I believe the Strike Kings will pull out a game on the strength of Don and Jason. But their depth that got tested last week, is in for an even bigger test to make the finals. While they did an admirable job against Asian Sensation last week, I think their lack of a true #3 comes back to haunt them.
Prediction: Pin Pals move on to the finals winning 2-1