We’re excited to roll out the first set of Power Rankings for Minor League Cricket by our stats guru, Tom Nielsen! In this post, we’ll explore the model behind the rankings and take a division-by-division look at the best teams in the league.
About the Power Rankings
The power rankings below are based on a statistical model that accounts for the quality of opposition a team faces and the margin of victory or defeat in every match of Toyota Minor League Cricket this season. Rather than giving full credit for a win no matter what, the model will attempt to give some credit to losing teams in close matches. So a team that suffers a 3-run or 1-wicket loss will be viewed as being near equals statistically to the winning team due to the closeness of the match. Alternatively, a team suffering a 50-run or 8-wicket defeat will get virtually no credit, as their opponents were clearly far better on the day.
Note that this model does not currently account for home field advantage. Given the fact that many of these matches are neutral or being played in a city both teams call home, this may not be having a massive impact, but it’s something to keep in mind with these rankings and to adjust for in future analysis.
How to interpret the ratings
The tables below will give a little bit of context behind the rating numbers themselves, by including the probability that the listed team would beat the team below them in the rankings. More generally, here’s a rule of thumb when judging differences in ratings between teams:
- A match between teams of the same rating would be a 50/50 toss-up
- A team with a 0.5-point rating advantage over their opponents would be slight favorites (~60%)
- A team with a 1.0-point rating advantage over their opponents would be strong favorites (~75%)
- A team with a 2.0-point rating advantage over their opponents would be very strong favorites (~90%)
First up we have the Atlantic Conference, where we’ve seen 11 matches of cross-over play between the Eastern and Southern Divisions. The East is an impressive 9-2 against the South, so they dominate the power rankings for the Conference, taking the top four positions.
The New Jersey Stallions take the top spot of the power rankings and in the standings, where they hold a commanding 8-point lead in their division. Despite a 3-3 record and fifth place standing in the Eastern Division, the model really likes the Empire State Titans and has them a clear second behind the Stallions. Empire State has suffered a couple close defeats-one by two runs (vs the Stallions) and one by two wickets (vs DC Hawks), so keep an eye on them to out-perform their record the rest of the way. The rest of the East is tight, with the DC Hawks, The Philadelphians, New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers and Manhattan Yorkers not separated by much in the ratings and all fighting for the second playoff spot behind the Stallions.
The South’s two wins vs the East came from the Morrisville Cardinals and Atlanta Fire, who are nestled right in the middle of the Eastern teams in the power rankings. These two sides are also well up in the divisional standings, and it would take a lot for the rest of the division to catch up with less than half a dozen matches left.
Out in the Pacific Conference, we are approaching our first meetings between the Central and Western Divisions this weekend, when all 21 (!) cross-over matches on the schedule this year will take place. This means the model doesn’t yet have any data to judge these divisions against each other, so we’ll look at them separately.
Things are tight in the Central Division, where the model views the top three teams – Austin, Michigan, and Houston – as equals. These three are separated by just four points in the standings, so the Central is shaping up to have a great playoff race on its hands as we head towards the home stretch. Not far behind though is another cluster with Irving, St. Louis, and my hometown Chicago Blasters. We’ve got the cross-over matches this weekend, but the final two weekends will be all massively important in-conference matchups that set up the playoff teams coming out of the Central.
The Western Division is a split between North and South, with the Northern California teams and Seattle a step ahead of Southern California. The model loves the East Bay Blazers, on the back of some dominating wins: three wins by 50+ runs, and another three wins by 6+ wickets where totals were chased down in 14 overs or less. Their lone loss came by five runs against the Silicon Valley Strikers. The East Bay Blazers, Golden State Grizzlies, and the Silicon Valley Strikers are all tied at 28 points atop the Divisional table, with NRR advantages and a game in hand for East Bay and Golden State. The model likes the Seattle Thunderbolts on the back of their 5-game win streak, but their 0-4 start may be too much to overcome in the playoff race.
A look ahead to the Central/Western Cross-Over matches
With no cross-over matches between the Central and Western Division played to date, it’s difficult to gauge how these matches will go. Each team will play three cross-over matches against three different teams from the other division – so what we can do is evaluate how difficult each team’s 3-match slate is this weekend. The teams are essentially sorted into two “pods” in St. Louis and Texas. In St. Louis, we’ll have Michigan, St. Louis, and the Chicago teams from the Central facing off against the Bay Area teams and Seattle from the West. Down in Texas, it’ll be the Texas teams against Southern California.
In the Central Division, this may put the Michigan Cricket Stars at a slight disadvantage in the playoff race, as Houston and Austin get easier matchups against the weaker Southern California sides. Out West, Golden State do not get a game against the weakest in the Central (Chicago Catchers), which might give East Bay and Silicon Valley a half leg up in the playoff race.
With just three weekends left in the regular season, the playoff race is really heating up in Minor League Cricket. The top two from each division make the playoffs, and outside of the Southern Division, spots are up for grabs across the board. With 27 teams across the nation, there’s no shortage of action to follow – hopefully these power rankings have provided some context and insight ahead of the coming matches. We’re in for an exciting final few weeks of play!