Super Central? Or super mediocre?
Or just another symptom of the shortest, strangest season in major-league history?
Whatever definitions or reasons you choose to apply, the National League Central and American League Central divisions went from pulling off an impressive, if not impossible, feat to taking what seemed an impossible nosedive in the span of four days.
The combined 10-team stack of Central teams combined to send seven teams to the expanded, 16-team playoffs — then all seven got eliminated, with only two of them even winning a game in the best-of-three series.
The final face plants came Friday, when the Cubs lost at home to the Marlins, 2-0, and the Cardinals later lost 4-0 in San Diego.
“It just sucks. It’s a bad feeling,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
Rizzo might as well have been speaking for everybody in the Central, which went a combined 2-14 — the NL Central getting shut out in five of eight losses.
So what does that say about how strong the Central divisions were, after all?
Maybe not as much as it does about the short-series format and the fact that 60-game schedules this season were confined to 40 games within the division and 20 against the corresponding division from the other league.
Small sample sizes and the quirkiness of the insulated schedules make it hard to accurately evaluate the strength of the divisions — though it’s probably fair to say the NL Central didn’t deserve half the National League playoff slots, no matter what the Reds’ Trevor Bauer thinks.
Were six of the nine worst-hitting teams in the majors actually in the 10-team Centrals, as the final season stats say — including five that made the playoffs?
Or were seven of the best 11 pitching staffs in the majors in the combined Centrals, as the final stats say — that group comprising the seven playoff qualifiers?
Maybe its no coincidence that the worst-hitting team, according to the stats, the Reds, didn’t score a run in 22 innings against the Braves — even if the Braves had pitching issues all season and finished in the middle of the pack.
On the other hand, maybe it’s no coincidence that Bauer didn’t give up a run in 7 2/3 innings against a high-octane Braves lineup that led the majors in OPS (.832) and finished one run off the MLB scoring lead — or that the Reds bullpen held them to just one in that 1-0, 13-inning loss in their playoff opener.
Or that between Shane Bieber in Cleveland and Bauer or the Cubs’ Yu Darvish, the Central divisions probably will produce both Cy Young winners during a year when a full season was 12 starts.
Who knows how the numbers and playoff field might have shaken out during a 162 season and normal playoff field?
The only thing for sure was that it was a bad October look for the Central.
“It’s just been strange. Very strange,” the Cubs’ Kris Bryant said of the season in general and the way it ended for the Cubs. “But there’s no excuse by any means.”