Hurdle's Bucs battling in rugged NL Central

Hurdle's Bucs battling in rugged NL Central

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle admits to not being able to see the trees because he is part of the National League Central forest. But he has begun to get the impression his division is becoming pretty hot stuff in the Majors.

The NL Central includes three of the four big league clubs playing better than .600 ball. Hurdle has been fielding a lot of calls from the fourth team at that lofty level -- the Texas Rangers -- as well as another recent place of his employment, Colorado.

"I get more kickback from people on the outside, watching," Hurdle said. "I got friends from Texas and Colorado going, 'What are you guys doing there?' We thought this division would be competitive, but three teams at this level? Anyone check out last time that happened?"

The truth is, going only by final standings, most recent seasons have not included a single .600 team among the Majors' 30 clubs. And since the three-division format was created in 1994 -- meaning, out of a total of 114 possibilities -- only three times has a division included even two .600 teams: The 2004 AL East, and the 2001-02 AL West.

So how are the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates currently doing it?

Beating up on the other guys, for sure. The three frontrunners have played a total of only 15 games amongst themselves, and have each also done well against teams from other divisions (Cardinals 20-10, Reds 21-12 and Pirates 18-12).

Can they all maintain the .600 level? Unlikely. Before it's over, each club will have met the other two 19 teams in the division's revised schedule, so they will be taking a lot of bites out of each other.

"That's a high rate of winning for three teams this early," Hurdle said. "Different teams get hot at different times, and right now, we're all in pretty good shape."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.