MiLC Week Six Preview

Just three weeks are left in the 2022 Toyota Minor League Cricket season. The playoff race has been narrowed down to the primary contenders, but there are still a few teams in last chance saloon that can make noise this week. Every division has a match or series with playoff implications. Tom Nielsen dives into the latest power rankings, takes stock of each division, and looks ahead to the top matches of the weekend.

Atlantic Conference

There’s a new top dog in the Atlantic Conference, as the Atlanta Fire unseat the Manhattan Yorkers, who suffered a 5-wicket defeat at the hands of New England this weekend. Meanwhile, the Fire demolished Orlando with an 85-run victory. This is something of a historical moment, as the Fire are the first team from the Southern Division to take the top spot in these power rankings. There remains a bit of a log-jam after the top four, with DC and New England getting only a little bit of separation from the pack. The model drops The Philadelphians drop down to last in the East after a split with DC, where they just squeaked by with a 1-wicket victory on Saturday before a big defeat on Sunday.

Eastern Division

Despite a Yorkers’ loss over the weekend, Manhattan and the New Jersey Stallions remain well ahead of the pack in the east on points with strong NRR advantages. The Philadelphians are perhaps best poised to catch them, but despite a talented squad, haven’t been able to fire on all cylinders this year, hampered by an injury or two. The Philadelphians have two matches left against each of the division leaders: a double-edged sword, as it gives them a chance to catch up, but makes for an extremely challenging schedule to wrap up the season. The DC Hawks have been on the losing end of some tight finishes. Losses by five runs, nine runs, and one wicket are amongst their five losses on the year. A bounce or two here or there and they would be well in the playoff race with their excellent bowling attack.

Eastern Division Weekend Matches:

  • Saturday, July 30th, 10 AM ET: DC Hawks v New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers, Exton Park
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2 PM ET: New England Eagles v Empire State Titans, Keney Park
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2:30 PM ET: The Philadelphians v New Jersey Stallions, Exton Park
  • Sunday, July 31st, 10 AM ET: New Jersey Stallions v DC Hawks, Exton Park
  • Sunday, July 31st, 11 AM ET: Empire State Titans v New England Eagles, Keney Park
  • Sunday, July 31st, 2:30 PM ET: The Philadelphians v Manhattan Yorkers, Exton Park

The top action this weekend happens amidst the cricket festival at Exton Park just outside Philadelphia. It’s time for The Philadelphians to make their stand with a match each against the Yorkers and Stallions: if Philly can take advantage of home field advantage with a sweep, that will bring them to above 20% to make the playoffs and make for a thrilling finish to the season. The DC Hawks are in a similar must-win situation with matches against both New Jersey sides at Exton Park. In New England, the Eagles host a two-match series in a lower-table clash.

Southern Division

Down South, the Atantas Fire and Lightning remain favorites for the two playoff spots after each taking care of business against the Orlando Galaxy. There’s still quite a bit of uncertainty here, though. Morrisville has a lot of matches left on the calendar, including all five of their scheduled matches against the Atlanta sides. Rain can play a factor here, since Morrisville can’t afford too many abandonments, as they may have to over turn what are currently hefty NRR disadvantages.

Southern Division Weekend Matches:

  • Saturday, July 30th, 2 PM ET: Atlanta Lightning v Atlanta Fire, Atlanta Cricket Fields
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2 PM ET: Orlando Galaxy v Morrisville Raptors, Silverstar Recreation Center
  • Sunday, July 31st, 10:30 AM ET: Morrisville Raptors v Orlando Galaxy, Silverstar Recreation Center
  • Sunday, July 31st, 2 PM ET: Atlanta Lightning v Atlanta Fire, Atlanta Cricket Fields
  • Sunday, July 31st, 3 PM ET: Morrisville Raptors v Ft. Lauderdale Lions, Silverstar Recreation Center

The big series this weekend is the Atlanta sides playing each other twice. A sweep for either will effectively clinch a playoff spot for the winner, while a split preserves the status quo. Down in Florida, Morrisville plays two against Orlando before a makeup match with Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday. The Raptors are roughly 60/40 favorites in each match and need at least two, but preferably three wins from the weekend (with a solid NRR boost) to comfortably stay in the playoff race.

Pacific Conference

No change at the top of the Pacific, with the top four remaining steady from last week. One surprise in the power rankings is the Lone Star Athletics, who sit at seventh in the conference and third in the division in the eyes of the model, despite a 1-7 record on the season. The defending division champs have struggled this year, but it’s worth noting that they’ve played the most challenging portion of their schedule already and have a couple close calls: a super over loss to Seattle and a 13-run defeat to Dallas. The return of Laksh Parikh from injury and a couple matches each against St. Louis and Chicago Blasters might help Lone Star creep up closer to mid-table in the Central.

Pacific Conference Rankings

Central Division

The Dallas Mustangs have all but locked up a playoff spot with a 9-1 record. Behind them, it’s a race between the Michigan Cricket Stars and Chicago Tigers for second place. The Tigers have the advantage in the standings, while Michigan has a stronger NRR. The Chicago Tigers have a match left against Dallas while Michigan has two. These may prove decisive if either can knock off the top team in the division.

Central Division Weekend Matches:

  • Saturday, July 30th, 2 PM CT: St. Louis Americans v Michigan Cricket Stars, ACAC Park
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2:30 PM CT: Dallas Mustangs v Chicago Tigers, Moosa Stadium
  • Saturday, July 30th, 3 PM CT: Chicago Blasters v Houston Hurricanes, Prairie View Cricket Complex
  • Sunday, July 31st, 10 AM CT: Chicago Blasters v Dallas Mustangs, Moosa Stadium
  • Sunday, July 31st, 11 AM CT: St. Louis Americans v Michigan Cricket Stars, ACAC Park
  • Sunday, July 31st, 2:30 PM CT: Lone Star Athletics v Chicago Tigers, Moosa Stadium

Perhaps the top match of the weekend is Dallas versus the Chicago Tigers on Saturday at Moosa Stadium. Dallas are roughly 60/40 favorites, but the Tigers handed Dallas their only loss of the season in week three. If the Tigers win, they’ll jump to 60-65% to make the playoffs, while a loss drops them to about 30%. Michigan travels to St. Louis for a pair against the Americans. Michigan are roughly 65/35 favorites so will need at least a win, and preferably two, to keep pace with the Tigers: every match is massive at this point.

Western Division

The West looks a lot like the Central from a probabilities perspective, with a really strong team in first and a two-team fight for second. Here it’s the undefeated defending Minor League Cricket Champions the Silicon Valley Strikers who are well in front and virtually (though strictly speaking, not mathematically) assured of a playoff spot. East Bay and Seattle are behind, having already split their season series in week one. Each has four matches left. For East Bay, it’s one against top dogs Silicon Valley and three against the Southern California sides; Seattle has two against Southern California and two tricky matches against fourth place Golden State. Right now, it’s effectively a coin flip between the two for that second playoff spot.

Eastern Division Probabilities

Western Division Weekend Matches:

  • Saturday, July 30th, 10 AM PT: SoCal Lashings v Hollywood Master Blasters, Woodley Park
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2 PM PT: Silicon Valley Strikers v Golden State Grizzlies, Morgan Hill
  • Saturday, July 30th, 2:30 PM PT: Hollywood Master Blasters v San Diego Surf Riders, Woodley Park
  • Sunday, July 31st, 2 PM PT: East Bay Blazers v Silicon Valley Strikers, Morgan Hill

Seattle has the weekend off and will be closely watching the East Bay Blazers take on Silicon Valley. A win for East Bay puts them at roughly 70% to make the playoffs, a loss dropping them to 40% and putting a lot of pressure on them for the last couple weekends against Southern California sides that would have no problem playing spoiler. Silicon Valley can clinch a playoff spot with a sweep this weekend, while the Hollywood Master Blasters take on their Southern California rivals.