We are now just past the halfway point of the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship (time flies when you’re watching four to six cricket matches simultaneously every weekend!). Playoff pictures are becoming a little clearer, and a solid six to eight teams are in do-or-die mode this weekend as we move to the pointy end of the playoff chase. Tom Nielsen looks at power rankings for each conference, and then moves down to the divisions for a look at placement probabilities and ahead to the big matches for the weekend.
In the Atlantic, the leading four in the power rankings stays the same, with the top two teams from each division well separated from the pack in the eyes of the model. There’s a bit of movement from last week in fifth through tenth, but in reality these teams are nearly inseparable: the Florida sides again take up the rear after a tough weekend visit from the Atlanta Lightning.
Manhattan and New Jersey have separated themselves from the pack in the Eastern Division standings, despite each taking a loss from last weekend (including Manhattan handing New Jersey a narrow one wicket defeat). But don’t count out Empire State and The Philadelphians, who have three and four matches left to play respectively against Manhattan and New Jersey. This does make for a challenging remaining schedule but sweeps for either team would put them squarely in the playoff hunt.
Eastern Division Weekend Matches:
- Saturday, July 23rd, 10 AM ET: Empire State Titans v Manhattan Yorkers, Idlewild Park
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM ET: DC Hawks v The Philadelphians, Veterans Memorial Park
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2:30 PM ET: New England Eagles v New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers, Idlewild Park
- Sunday, July 24th, 10 AM ET: New England Eagles v Manhattan Yorkers, Idlewild Park
- Sunday, July 24th, 11 AM ET: DC Hawks v The Philadelphians, Veterans Memorial Park
- Sunday, July 24th, 2:30 PM ET: Empire State Titans v New Jersey Stallions, Idlewild Park
This is the do-or-die weekend for the Empire State Titans, who take on the division leaders at Idlewild Park. Empire State are ~35/65% underdogs in each match, but cricket ain’t played on paper: a sweep for the Titans puts them at around 30% to make the playoffs. Elsewhere, The Philadelphians travel to DC for a doubleheader with the Hawks and their scary bowling attack.
In the South, the Atlanta sides retain their half-leg up on Morrisville after the Lightning took care of what business they could against the Florida teams. Morrisville will end the season with five straight games against the Atlanta teams, and just needs to be within reach so they can go on a run late.
Southern Division Weekend Matches:
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM ET: Atlanta Lightning v Orlando Galaxy, Atlanta Cricket Fields
- Saturday, July 23rd, 5:30 PM ET: Morrisville Raptors v Ft. Lauderdale Lions, Church St. Park
- Sunday, July 24th, 10:30 AM ET: Atlanta Fire v Orlando Galaxy, Atlanta Cricket Fields
- Sunday, July 24th, 11 AM ET: Morrisville Raptors v Ft. Lauderdale Lions, Church St. Park
The Ft. Lauderdale Lions travel to Church St. Park to take on the Raptors, including what will inevitably be a magical Saturday evening match under the lights. A weekend sweep to keep pace with the leaders would put Morrisville at nearly 50% to make the playoffs. Orlando heads up to Atlanta for a match against each of the division leaders. All the playoff contenders will look to take care of business against the Florida sides that are out of playoff contention.
The top three in the Pacific held serve last weekend, while a sweep in Southern California helps Seattle leapfrog a couple of sides into fourth place in this week’s power rankings. Dallas remains strong in the Central with a 7-1 record, but a narrow 4-run win over Houston after the previous weekend’s loss to the Chicago Tigers puts a dent in their status as far as the model is concerned.
Dallas have enough points in the bank to more or less ensure themselves a spot in the playoffs. The model is a big fan of Michigan and gives them a strong edge over the Chicago Tigers. Michigan trails the Tigers by four points in the standings but has three games in hand and a strong NRR advantage.
Central Division Weekend Matches:
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM CT: Michigan Cricket Stars v Chicago Tigers, Lyon Oaks
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM CT: Lone Star Athletics v Dallas Mustangs, Moosa Stadium
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2:30 PM CT: Houston Hurricanes vs St. Louis Americans, Prairie View Cricket Complex
- Sunday, July 24th, 10:30 AM CT: Dallas Mustangs v St. Louis Americans, Moosa Stadium
- Sunday, July 24th, 11 AM CT: Michigan Cricket Stars v Chicago Blasters, Lyon Oaks
- Sunday, July 24th, 2:30 PM CT: Lone Star Athletics v Houston Hurricanes, Moosa Stadium
Easily the division’s match of the weekend – and perhaps the most impactful match of the weekend across the whole league – is Michigan Cricket Stars versus Chicago Tigers on Saturday at Lyon Oaks. A win for Michigan puts them at 83% to make the playoffs and drops the Tigers to 8%. But if the Tigers win, that narrows to 49% for Michigan and 42% for the Tigers. Elsewhere, St. Louis – currently on the fringe of the playoff chase – heads down to Texas for a festival of cricket involving all of the Texas-based sides.
Silicon Valley retains their stranglehold on Minor League Cricket, racking up an eighth straight win to start the season last weekend. It’s still a strong fight behind them, where Seattle has taken the advantage in the race for second after Golden State fell against Silicon Valley. East Bay are hanging around in third, but have no matches remaining against Seattle, so it might be challenging for them to make up ground.
Western Division Weekend Matches:
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM PT: San Diego Surf Riders v Hollywood Master Blasters, Canyonside Park
- Saturday, July 23rd, 2 PM PT: Seattle Thunderbolts v Silicon Valley Strikers, Tollgate Farms
- Sunday, July 24th, 11 AM PT: Seattle Thunderbolts v Silicon Valley Strikers, Tollgate Farms
- Sunday, July 24th, 2 PM PT: San Diego Surf Riders v SoCal Lashings, Canyonside Park
- Sunday, July 24th, 2 PM PT: Golden State Grizzlies v East Bay Blazers, Davis
A top of the table clash sees Seattle taking on Silicon Valley at home. It’s a huge weekend for Seattle: a sweep would all but guarantee a playoff spot (95%), while a split would have them hold serve at 77% to make the playoffs. Though if they get swept, they’ll be back down to just 50% with work to do against Golden State later in the year. Silicon Valley are more or less safe at this point but getting swept would drop them to 75% to make the playoffs and bring East Bay or Golden State back into the race. Speaking of which, those two sides have a tasty match-up of their own in Davis on Sunday. The match tilts just slightly in favor of East Bay, who would see their playoff qualification probability jump to 44% with a win.