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Team Outook: Ottomans & Sultans

Written by: Taha Iqbal 
 
The next two teams we analyze are the Ottomans and Sultans. The Ottomans surprised everyone and broke everyone's mock draft by deviating from their AGM core. The Sultans capitalized and got a steal with Shaheen Limbada at #6. The Sults and Otts already had a rivalry dating back to the inaugural semi-final but that just got a dose of steroids with family drama. The steelcage match between Rehan and Shaheen is set for July 22nd. Both teams come into this season with high expectations after a disappointing end to their 2017 season. They will hope a new core and a different strategy will finally reap results. 

Batting averages for new players were assumed based on averages of players drafted in their round. Full statiscal analysis will be provided after all recaps have been posted. 
 
Ottomans
 
Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 37 years (Oldest in the league this year)
BSL Experience: 506 games (Most experienced squad in 2018)
Batting Orientation: 2 Lefty, 10 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.460 (3rd best in the league this year - .014 over league average)
Gold Glovers: 2 (2016: Hammad Afif (2nd); 2015: Taha Iqbal (3rd);)
Championship Experience: 3 (2017: Furhan Azmat; 2015: Taha Iqbal; 2014: Randy Panesar)
 
Are Ottomans the Seattle Mariners of BSL? Ergo, the best team ever to have not won a championship? With a Ken Griffey Jr. of their own, it makes for an uncanny comparison. Hashim Ghazi has led the Turks well in their conquests over the past four years but pressure is mounting on him to bring home the championship. Apart from a stellar 2016, Ghazi’s own performances have been modest (at best), with him seemingly disappearing when the games matter most. If the Ottomans want to cross that dreaded final hurdle, it’s imperative for their commander to have a strong year. Trust Ghazi to turn back the clock this year in hopes of finally lead Turks to glory.
 
If Ottomans are akin to Mariners, Rehan Ahmad is analogous to Lebron James (different sport, we know, but work with us here), tasked with carrying the team on his back every year. At the draft, however, he channeled his inner J.R. Smith, as he decided to draft Taha Iqbal over franchise icon Shaheen Limbada. Thereafter, Ahmad could be seen talking to Ghazi’s hand throughout the draft, as the decision clearly was spearheaded by one side of the GM duo. It is understood that Limbada has since defriended Ahmad on Facebook and based on Ahmad’s own admission, Limbada hasn’t returned any of his 283 missed calls. For all we care, this feud might have refueled the Ottomans vs Sultans rivalry from Year 1 of the League.  Ahmad leads the league in almost all the offensive categories - there is hardly any individual award that two-time reigning MVP hasn’t won and it is no secret that he has his eyes set on the silverware that matters the most.
 
However, we should point out that objectively, picking up Iqbal made a lot of sense – he plays a premium position, can bat anywhere in the lineup, and shows he really turns it up in the postseason, as demonstrated by his Playoff MVP performance in his championship 2015 season. You couldn’t help but notice an uproar when Ottomans selected Taha Iqbal as their first pick, but a lot of the noise was coming from the draft pick himself. Iqbal celebrated his selection by letting out a patented screech, did his staple Amitabh Bachchan dance, and then left for the cinema to watch ‘Jo Jeeta Wo Sikander’ with his family. Iqbal has had solid four years in the league, but has never played without his close associated, Imran Merchant and AR. As if Iqbal’s selection hadn’t created enough furor, the Ottomans set the cat amongst the pigeons by selecting rookie Owais Ansari as their second pick. Ansari joins the League with a reputation befit of a phenom after some very impressive offensive statistics in other Mississauga leagues. The 24-year old is tasked with manning short-stop for the Turks, and if he can hold it down like the Mighty O’s SS of the past, we may have a budding superstar on our hands.
 
After hectic first couple of rounds, the Turks restored order by selecting Tanseer Khawaja as their third pick. Given the dearth of pitchers in this league and Khawaja’s two-way abilities, it’s a surprise that he lasted as long as he did. While not quite Shohei Ohtani, Khawaja has the unique distinction of being the only player in the League to have won both a batting title (2014) and pitcher of the year (2015) – yup, not even Ziggy the Commish can match that. While other teams were looking to add youth to their teams in the earlier rounds, the Ottomans continued to add experience to their squad by drafting Hammad Afif in the fourth round. Unfortunately for Afif, his performances over past couple of years have failed to surpass his reputation of being a consistent clean-up hitter, but with a team featuring the big bats of Ahmad, and Iqbal, he will not be burdened of carrying as extensive of a load on offense. Afif’s leather at second base played a big role in why he was brought in by the Ottomans, and we expect him and Ansari to combine for routine double plays all year long.
 
With their fifth pick, Ottomans drafted Mohsin Zubair, a cricketer by day and a softball player by night (Ed’s Note: we recognize this can be said of about 40 percent of the League). Zubair has been consistent during his two years in the league, and the Ottomans will hope he’s able to continue the trend in 2018. The Nasrids seemed to have pulled a strategic masterclass when they were a pick away from bringing back their former leader, Kashif Waheed. However, the Ottomans were having none of that, as they drafted Waheed in the sixth round. Clearly, the Nasrids left Waheed on the board for a round too long and were left licking their wounds. Waheed was targeted by the Royal Blues, recognizing that his best performance in the League were in Season 1 where he was not managing a team and rather just focusing on being a beast at the plate. Plus, when you factor in his leadership skills that have been on display ever since inception, we anticipate a big year.
 
Although Arshad Chawdhry’s batting numbers have regressed since he first joined the league in 2015, his defensive performances have remained consistently good, capitalized by a Gold Glove nomination for his performance last year. Add that to his speed and eye at the plate, and you have the makings of a player playing way above the round he got picked. Furhan Azmat, coming fresh off a championship, will be suiting up for the Ottomans this year. This fashion icon has long questioned his fellow players’ fashion sense (with exception to his GM, he knows he dresses incredibly mash’Allah), and has finally given up on them, making the walks from the parking lot to the diamond a runway all to himself. Thom Browne short suits and $41,000 snakeskins bags? Amateur – wait till you see what WPG’s Finest has in store.
 
Randy Panesar’s lifelong desire to play for the Ottomans has finally come to fruition. His excitement was palpable when he heard the news of being drafted by his childhood hero, Rehan Ahmad (they are both the same age). While Panesar’s stock have gone down in recent years, you cannot question his commitment and ability at the plate when he is locked in. For the Ottomans to have poached a guy sporting a career average of over .440 this late in the draft seems like a broad daylight robbery. Joining Panesar will be his teammate from last year, Zia Ali, the only player drafted by the team that has adorn the Ottomans logo in the past. The Ottomans’ decision to bring back Ali was dictated by the two dingers he hit against them in one of the games last year. Expect Ali to finally silence his critics if he’s able to maintain the hitting surge he displayed closing out last season.
 
Strengths: 
  • Pitching: Statistically, Tanseer Khawaja is the best pitcher in the league when it comes to strikeout rate and average walks conceded. With an omni-present offence, this upgrade in pitching is sure to drive results for the Ottomans;
  • Leadership: the Ottomans feature five guys who have GMed in the League (Taha, Tanseer, Kashif, Rehan and Hashim), and others (Hammad and Zia) who have been captains of teams in other leagues/sports – this group knows how to lead and show up ready to play come gametime;
  • Reh/Rey/Ray – the guy’s won three straight MVPs, come on now. 
Weaknesses: 
  • Age: the O’s are the oldest in the league this year – six years older than the youngest team. Fatigue might play a role late in the season, as may injuries;
  • Lack of Power: the Ottomans of last year was stocked with superstars crushing the ball out of the park like it was nothing. Those days are long gone, as the team seems to have more of a balanced, small-ball lineup in 2018.
  • A lot will be asked of their outfield with Mohsin, Arshad, Kashif and Furhan playing along side Rehan. They are one of few teams without a gold glover in the grass. 
Keys to success: 
 
There seems to be greater balance in the Ottomans of 2018. While there is dearth of superstars, their batting lineup can get on base from one through twelve. Ottomans will hope that the support cast is able to shoulder some of the load from Rey Rey. In the presence of two gold gloves and a trusty platoon at first, the Ottomans’ infield looks strong as well. Expect the Ottomans to single and double their way to runs this year, and leave the home runs to the big bats in the lineup. When they can continually put together a few runs every inning, it will leave their ace Robocop Khawaja to do what he does best – shut down opposing hitters and keep the runs against at bay.

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : A
Infield : B+
Outfield : C
Batting : B+
 
 
Sultans
 
Key Numbers: 
Average age: 35 years (3rd oldest in the league this year)
Total BSL Games: 432 games (3rd least)
Batting Orientation: 1 Lefty, 11 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.442 (4th highest - median)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 1 (2016: Shahzad Ahmed (3rd);) 

Total players with Championships: 3 (2016: Omer Chaudhry, Shahzad Ahmed; 2015: Zain Malik)
 
For a good part of last year, the Sultans seemed to have reclaimed their mojo that had gone missing after the inaugural season. Rookie GM Shamil Khadaroo’s leadership was instrumental in their run to the playoffs and with a squad made up of superstars, we hope he does not approach the game negatively and regressively like the manager of his second-class football club, Manchester United. Remarkably, 65% of his hits last year were XBH but his flashes of great hitting were marred by otherwise inconsistent plate appearances that saw him barely hit .400. Khadaroo’s up and down season can be attributed to his Canseco-like performances last year – he was Jose on Diamond 2, but Ozzie on Diamond 1. In Khadaroo’s absence, Shahzad Ahmed will have to shoulder the added responsibilities of a GM. This has hardly phased Ahmed though, as he was spotted at a local joint feasting on a Jucy Lucy with his close associate, Mustafa. While little is known about this close friend of his, Shahzad has attributed his past success to Mustafa’s constant presence in his life. Aside from his associations, Ahmed’s firepower with the bat is hardly disputable. It is rumored that the local transit company has been after him for wrecking number of their trains running on the Lakeshore line right behind the home run fence. His defensive skills at the hot corner serve as the icing on the cake – now the only thing missing from his game is a man-bun. 
 
Khadaroo and Ahmed could hardly believe their luck when the Ottomans passed on Shaheen Limbada in the draft. Limbada is a proven offensive juggernaut and his knack for run production has been outstanding. Limbada’s defensive abilities are well documented as well and we all know Shaheen is at his best when he has something to prove. He will be motivated after his performance in the playoffs last year and being overlooked in the draft by the team he made a contender year after year – it seems Sultans might have added the piece that can take them all the way. Shahzad drafted a familiar face in the second round, as he brought in Omer Chaudhry from their 2016 championship winning Mamluks. It is understood that Chaudhry wasn’t overly excited as he was looking forward to rejoining the Abbasids for another year at Shortstop. Going by his yoyo performance chart, Chaudhry is primed for a monster season again this year and if he gets remotely close to what he did in 2016, then the Sultans’ top four might be hard to contain. 
 
With a limited supply of pitchers disappearing thick and fast in the draft, the Sultans drafted AK with their third pick. AK was able to manage his camping commitments last year and pitched the Nasrids to the championship game. Nobody locks in quite like AK does, and if he’s able to maintain similar commitment level this year, the Sultans’ pitching concerns should be well taken care of. He will be joined by his Nasrids’ teammate from last year, Kamil Haider. Even though Kamil was a vital piece to the Nasrids’ overall success last year, personally, he personally knows he can perform better offensively. Haider is known to be electrifying at SS and he should complement Ahmed well on the left side of the infield. The Sultans’ drafted the ‘other’ Hassan Chaudhary with their fifth pick. 'Hary' as he is affectionately called, has been a superstar on the soccer pitch in BISL over last couple of years, it’ll be interesting to see how his Softball career pans out. He’s got the speed and length of a centre-fielder, and with some experienced outfielders flanking him, he in good hands to continually develop on the grass. 
 
The exuberant Zain Malik had invited his close friends to the draft so they could watch him being picked in the first round, but grapes turned sour after the end of fifth round as the dejected Malik was seen taking his anger out on a chair while watching a Pakistan v India kabaddi match in the adjacent room. Malik, picked in the sixth round, will don the heralded white jersey for third year in a row as he brings with him championship experience and a good steady bat. Faisal Khan, picked in the seventh round, sees a return to Sultans as well and welcomes his old teammate Limbada into the mix. Khan had a resurgent 2017 after a dismal 2016 - he’d hope to replicate his performance from last year and help drive the Sultans’ resurgence of their own.
 
The Sultans traded their eighth and tenth pick in return for Abbasids’ same picks. This trade sees Ahmed Butt and Zayd Ramjaun make their way to Abbasids in return for Khizer Channa and Saoud Ramjaun. Khizer closed out his 2017 with a championship and will look to further develop as a young utility player in the League. Ramjaun is moving on to the Sultans where he should immediately make Shahzad and Mustafa giddy with Saoud's MVP bbq ribs. Ninth round pick, Taqi Ahmed will represent Sultans for the first time as he tries to get out of his torrid run and make a name for himself in the league.

Strengths:

  • Championship Experience: Sultans’ championship experience is amongst the best in the league this year. They’d hope that this turns out to be the differentiator between them and the rest;
  • Left side of Field: The Left side of the Sultans field (Shaz and Kamil in the infield, Sham and Slim in the OF) locks down the busiest area of the park, and the infield especially looks like one of the best in the League.
Weaknesses:
  • Weak Outfield: Apart from Limbada, the Sultans’ outfield looks feeble, especially with Khadaroo missing eight games or more. They will have to rely on Hassan, Khizer and one of Omer or Zain to really step up to keep them from floundering; They are another team without a gold glover in the OF, though Shaheen has been a finalist many times.
  • Pitching Alternates: Lack of pitching alternates might leave Sultans scrambling in AK’s absence, and may force one of King Khan, Shaz or Slim to throw some strikes and play out of their preferred position to keep the team competitive.
  • Balanced lineup: With plenty of power bats, opposing GMs are already planning on giving up solo dingers to this team.
Keys to success: 
 
One of the factors that’ll drive Sultans success this year is their pitcher’s attendance. While AK missed only a week last year, the frequent camper finds himself more indispensable than ever this year. Further, the Sultans batting lineup is top heavy and it is pivotal to their overall success that they perform to their perceived potential. Lastly, the outfielders will need to step up in Khadaroo’s prolonged absence to ensure they’re able to stay afloat. 

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : B
Infield : B
Outfield : C
Batting : B