Diary of a long-suffering Pirates fan: Game #8: Wait. What just happened? We're not in first place anymore?

Pirates aren't the only team in NL Central with a good record
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Before the season began, MLB prognosticators predicted that the National League Central would not have a dominant team. The division was ripe for the pickings, they predicted. Different outlets had different teams winning the Central. The Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals garnered the most votes for a Division championship. The Brewers got a little love. But the Pirates, except for this writer, (see If You Can't Believe in your team in the Spring, when can you) got none. But most of these prediction pieces opined that the division winner would win the division with somewhere around 90 victories in what was described over and over again as a "weak division."

So, with the Pirates sitting 6 wins and 1 loss going into their home opener yesterday, one would have thought that, if worse comes to worse and the Pirates happened to lose this game to the vaunted Orioles and their number one pitching ace, Grayson Rodriquez, one little loss wouldn't cost them first place in this "weak division."

But lose the Pirates did. And when the evening was over, it was the Milwaukee Brewers and not the Pittsburgh Pirates that were in first place in the so-called "weak" National League Central Division. Worse, the Cubs won, too. And they are now 5-2, only a 1/2 game behind the Pirates. What the heck is going on? Where are the weak teams these prognosticators predicted would inhabit the NL Central? Heck, even the last place St. Louis Cardinals, were sitting at 4-4, only two games behind the Pirates. And they're playing the Marlins this weekend.

The first place Texas Rangers have the 1-7 Oakland A's to bring up the rear in their division. The first place Atlanta Braves have the 0-8 Miami Marlins and the 2-5 Washington Nationals to load up on. The first place Los Angeles Dodgers have the 2-6 Colorado Rockies that they don't have to worry about. But the NL Central does not have a bad team. The Pirates are supposed to be that team, but they are trying to write a different script this year.

So, if you're an NL Central Division team, don't have a bad day at the office or you might find yourselves passed in the standings.

Which is what happened to the Pirates yesterday. They lose 5 to 2. The Pirates muster a meager 6 hits, strike out 12 times, and go 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

Jared Jones, however, is again sensational. He pitches 6 strong innings allowing 2 runs on six hits and striking out 7. He did not issue a walk. The two runs scored against him were two solo home runs by Gunnar Henderson and Ryan O'Hearn. Unfortunately for Jones and the Pirates, Grayson Rodriquez was even better.

Unfortunately, the Pirates bullpen was unable to keep the game close.

Ryan Borucki allowed 2 runs in only 1/3 of an inning worked. And Hunter Stratton allowed another run as he, too, surrendered a solo home run.

But back to the so-called weak NL Central. Would a weak division have four of their 5 teams in the top 14 teams in run production in the Major Leagues? Well, the Pirates, despite the loss to the Orioles, still check in tied for 4th in runs scored. The Cubs are close behind at 6th in run production. The Cardinals 11th and the Reds 14th.

And would a weak division have the numbers 4 (Cubs), 6 (Pirates), 8 (Brewers), and 9 (Reds) in highest team OPS? Or how about the Brewers giving up the 5th fewest runs in baseball? This is a weak division?

The prognosticators may still get it right that the winner of the NL Central does not have a large win total. But, if so, it may very well be because the teams within the division are so good that they each beat each other up enough times to keep the win totals down.

As much fun as it was to pad some victories against the Marlins and the Nationals, we will only face those teams for one more series this year. The Braves and Phillies, however, get to face each of those teams 12 or 13 more games this season. So there is plenty of room for the Braves and Phillies to pad some victories against those two teams. And those Braves and Phillies hitters must be drooling at the thought of going up against the Nationals and Marlins pitching staffs, who have ERAs of 5.26 and 6.21 respectively.

So, while it is still too early in the season to make any sense of the standings, one thing seems to be playing out. The NL Central Division is not only better than people think, it may be one of the best divisions top to bottom in baseball.