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Team Outlook: Nasrids & Mughals

Written by: Taha Iqbal 
 
The next two teams we analyze are the Nasrids and Mughals. Both teams played each other in the 2017 finals with the rematch coming this weekend. The Nasrids had a cinderella run last year from the bottom of the table to being one inning away from the title. The Mughals have been the model of consistency over the years and are hoping for more of the same with an experienced roster this year. Both teams approach the game differently hoping for the same outcome. As per tradition, a rematch of the finals will take place on opening week and we will find out if the Nasrids have gotten one step closer to that elusive trophy.

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. 
 
Nasrids
 
Key Numbers: 
Average Age: 34 years (Par with league average)
BSL Experience: 468 games (Slightly above league average: 450)
Batting Orientation: 12 Righties
Squad Career Batting Average: 0.410 (Worst in the league)
Gold Glovers: 4 (2017: Aftab Sheikh, Nirvaan Latif, Osman Buttar; 2015: Osman Buttar; 2014: Usama Mahmood)
Championship Experience: 3 (2017: Asim Gauhar; 2015: Ibrahim Sardar, Salar Rasoul)
 
Nasrids finally got it together last year as they made the playoffs for the first time since the team’s inception. Their run was even sweeter as they turned their season around from a terrible 2-6 start. The mighty Nasrids were finally able to translate their talents to performances and their fairytale run was disrupted only in the final game of the season. Ironically, Kashif Waheed was given a Dwayne Casey treatment and was shown the door after Franchise’s most successful year. Nasrids’ new GM, ‘Sir’ Nirvaan Latif has assumed no responsibility in Waheed’s out and reportedly, there’s no love lost between the two. Latif was sworn in as Nasrids’ new GM and his strategy going into the draft was to get a better leverage at the top and pick Waheed in the mid rounds. Nasrids were late in pulling the trigger as Ottomans won this round of Russian Roulette. 

Nirvaan Latif was one of the stand outs from the inaugural season, winning both the regular season MVP and the HR title that year. While Latif hasn’t been able to replicate that success since, he has remained one of the most consistent hitters in the league. Latif has also maintained a high level of utility defence over the years and it’ll be interesting to see which position he makes his own this year. Osman Buttar is one of the most decorated hitters in the league as he joins Latif as his assistant GM. Like Nirvaan, Buttar finished his rookie season with the HR title and is undoubtedly one of the most fearsome hitters. He was a key piece in Nasrids’ deep playoff run last year but if Nasrids aim to make a similar run, Buttar’s support cast will have to take more prominent roles in the team. Buttar is also a two-time gold glove winner and has made the all-star teams in all three years.

Nasrids kicked off their draft by bringing in a familiar Usama Mahmood. Buttar’s greenbird teammate has been one of the most electrifying infielders with an innate ability to turn double plays on demand. While his defence remains stellar, his offence has been nowhere as reliable, batting a mere .350 on the season. He showed what he can do last year in the playoffs mustering 11 hits on 12 ABs. Mahmood’s consistency with the bat will go a long way in ensuring a successful season for the Nasrids. Rookie, Asad Syed was picked up by Nasrids as their second pick. Syed has previously starred in BSL pick-up games, showcasing his big-hitting abilities but that’s all we can confirm about him.
Ibrahim Sardar sees a change in responsibilities this year after relinquishing control of the Seljuqs. This also results in a change in scenery as this will be his first year without Imran Merchant and Taha Iqbal. Sardar has built a reputation of a consistent lead-off hitter and lately a reliable pitcher. Whether he pitches this year or not, remains to be seen. Ali Wadee will join the Nasrids again this year after an underwhelming rookie season. Nasrids will hope that Wadee is able to turn his offensive struggles around which should bring greater stability to the overall dynamics. Aftab Sheikh had a heck of a season last year with the Mamluks and won the mid-season tournament MVP trophy to show for his efforts. He was awarded for his consistency last year as Nasrids picked him up in the fifth round. Whether Sheikh can repeat his performance from last year remains to be seen. Sheikh’s golden season wasn’t only limited to his offence but for his defense as well - acknowledged by a gold glove for his efforts at 2B.

Aftab Sheikh will welcome his Mamluks teammate from last year, Jav Ahmed as he was picked up in the sixth round by the Nasrids. Ahmed had a breakout season of sorts as well last year – his last season in 2015 saw him hit .065 which improved to .528 last year. Nasrids will hope that Ahmed is able to string together two consistent seasons. Salar Rasoul returns to BSL this year - his last and only appearance in 2015 resulted in a championship for the Ayyubids. Nasrids will hope that Rasoul turns out to be a lucky charm for them as they contend for the championship.

Nasrids picked up role players, Hasan Afzal, Asim Gauhar and Asim Waheed in the final three rounds to round up the draft.
 
Strengths: 
  • Osman Buttar: Buttar has the ability to carry his team on the back. He was one of the primary reasons Nasrids could make a push for the championship last year;
  • Infield: In presence of three gold gloves (presuming that Nirvaan, Usama and Aftab all play infield) Nasrids’ infield defense looks ominous.
Weaknesses: 
  • Pitching: One of the constants we’ve seen from all championship teams is great pitchers. Nasrids decided against drafting a regular pitcher and unless the incumbent finds his groove early, inexperienced pitching could cause them some stress;
  • Outfield: Apart from Osman (It seems Sardar can only pitch or play infield this season) there is dearth of quality outfielders in the lineup. Asad Syed will have to be a reliable CF to solidify their grass troops. 
  • Depth: Although Nasrids’ top looks good, their weak bottom half lowers their overall batting average. Hasan Afzal and Asim Waheed will need to have career years to give the top order more at-bats.  
Keys to success: 
 
The Nasrids’ success will start from Buttar’s bat but will need a balanced attack. Asad Syed will need to have a stellar rookie season to take pressure off the top order. Their infield is amongst the best in the league this year and they’ll have to lock it down to aid their pitching. Buttar and Syed will need to be a dynamic duo in the outfield for the Nasrids’ overall success. Bottom six in the lineup need to hit the ground running and start punching above their weight to bring Nasrids’ batting average up to parity with the league.

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : B-
Infield : A
Outfield : C
Batting : C
 
 
Mughals
 
Key Numbers: 
Average age: 34 years (Par with league average)
Total BSL Games: 475 games (2nd best)
Batting Orientation: 3 Lefty, 9 Righties
Career Team Batting Average: 0.475 (2nd highest)
Total players with Gold Gloves: 5 (2017: Zahid Merchant; 2016: Nadeem Hussain, Zahid Merchant; 2015: Hassan Chaudhry; 2014: Aazar Zafar, Nadeem Hussain)  

Total players with Championships: 8 (2017: Aazar Zafar, Ismail Akhter, Nadeem Hussain, Zahid Merchant; 2016: Hassan Chaudhry, Riyad Ramjaun; 2014: Faraaz Alvi, Nadeem Hussain, Nauman Abbasi, Zahid Merchant) 
 
Zahid Merchant and Nadeem Hussain are the only GM/AGM duo that has stood the test of time. What started off as a Billy Beane-Paul DePodesta (Moneyball) association, soon flourished into a full-fledged bromance but as the league zooms in on their relationship, chinks start to appear in their armours. It is rumoured that all hell broke loose in the Mughals camp when Hussain declared his admiration for Rehan Ahmad and his desire to one day play under Ahmed’s leadership. Recently, Merchant stormed out of a press conference when grilled on Hussain’s ‘state of mind’ and it’s obvious to see Zahid is dealing with a heartbreak. We are not sure how this will affect his performance and the team atmosphere. 
 
It is also understood that Merchant has entered a lawsuit against Tarzan for copyright infringement on his patented chest pound. In a Twitter tirade, Merchant implored The ‘George of the Jungle’ Softball League MVP to try something original for a change. Merchant has led this franchise to two championships and is the most successful BSL pitcher of all time with an astounding 45-12 record. With the bat, he has the most hits and runs scored in league’s four years history - A true Babe Ruth of BSL. His apprentice of four years, Hussain, is rumoured to be rocking the Mughals ship lately and is believed to be next in line to replace Zahid ‘Dwayne Casey’ Merchant for Mughals’ top job. Offensively, 3-time All-Star had an out of character season last year, attributed mostly to an injury mid-way through the season. He didn’t let his guard down defensively though as he kept it clean in the outfield. Despite the distracting rumours, Hussain has committed his unwavering allegiance and affection for Merchant and.......the Kansas City Royals.
 
Following his annual ritual, Merchant started the draft day by watching ‘The Draft Day’. As his first move, he sucked baby Merchant in to swapping his fourth with Mamluks’ seventh and was still able to draft his preferred pick, Ismail Akhter. Like Hussain, Akhter had an underwhelming season last year with the bat but given the talent on offer, you can count on Akhter to resume demolition this year and he already looks like a changed man. Hassan Chaudhry’s marriage and the resulting absence (or not) was the most discussed mid-taraweeh conversations this Ramadan. Rival GMs were seen protesting outside The local masjid Imam prayed for Chaudhry’s full 16-game regular season on the night of the 27th following a several requests from his GM Zahid. Regardless of duration of his absence during the regular season, he will most certainly be available for the playoffs and that’s exactly why Mughals drafted Chaudhry. Interestingly though, Chaudhry too had an off season and averaged in the 400s last year. It’s hard to see 2016 Batting Title winner to have two off-colour seasons. 
 
With their third pick, the Mughals unusually drafted a young’n, an 18 year old rookie Aqib Khokhar. If practices and exhibition games are to be taken as a barometer, this rookie is a solid shortstop and slated to lead off for Mughals this year. Surprisingly, Faraaz Alvi dropped to Mughals in the fourth round – compared to when he was drafted in the first round the year before. He celebrated his return to Mughals by treating everyone on his team to Popeyes - it is safe to say that he has won back his GMs trust with this clutch move. Alvi, like many of his comrades, had a forgettable season last year but over his four years career, his run production has been amongst the best in BSL. In the fifth round, Merchant drafted a close friend and neighbour, Imran Qureshi. Like many rookies, he had a slow start to his career last year but has the making of a consistent, mid-lower order hitter. Imran should also provide Zahid a BP buddy at their local park. Watch out for Qureshi’s long stretches and dependable glove at first base as he vies for his first gold glove in that position. 
 
Aazar Zafar will be thrilled to make a return to his championship team. Until last year, Zafar had one of the lowest attendance averages in the league, but came around to missing only three games during the regular season. Under Merchant’s leadership, expect Zafar to continue improving on the depleted attendance average and continue contributing in the outfield and with the bat. Noor Sheikh had a horrid run with the bat last year, averaging an abysmal .176, over 34 ABs. Interestingly, Noor averages .430 over two seasons with Sultans but the average drops to sub-.250 playing for other teams. Sheikh downplayed this analysis and termed BSL analysts amateurish - he promises to come out of the blocks with all guns blazing as he aims to reverse the trend. For the fifth year running, Riyad ‘The Gypsy’ Ramjaun will be suiting up for a new team. He will serve as a relief pitching option for Merchant and a decent infield alternative. Atif Parvaiz and Nauman Abbasi round up the Mughals squad for 2018. Both will take on important support roles as the Mughals strive to cement their dynasty in the league.

Strengths:
  • Pitching: Zahid Merchant is one of the best pitchers in the league and it seems that he might have added a few pitches to his armoury;
  • Outfield: With Nadeem, Hassan, Aazar and Ismail, Mughals have arguably the best outfield in the league this year;
  • Championship Experience: All but three returning player have won a championship with one team or another. Come playoff, this experience will come in handy.
Weaknesses:
  • Squad Parity/Balance: While Mughals top 6 look formidable, their bottom 6 look are either unproven or weaker than league average.
  • Attendance/injury: With Hassan Chaudhry missing 3-4 weeks and Zahid, Aazar and Noor recovering from injuries, Mughals depth will be put to the test
Keys to success: 
 
Mughals come into the season with a daunting roster on paper but have major question marks on health and availability.  GM Zahid Merchant is coming off two major finger surgeries on his non-pitching hand. Aazar Zafar just got cleared to resume running after a foot injury and Noor Sheikh is still recovering from a neck injury.  Add the marriage of Hassan Chaudhry along with an 18 year old SS and you have the enough to keep GM Zahid sleepless for the entire summer.

Preseason ratings: 
Pitching : A
Infield : B-
Outfield : A
Batting : B+