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A New Spin on the Rotation

cole hamels - philadelphia phillies
Because Fox, one of baseball's broadcast partners, wanted the World Series to begin and end in the middle of a week -- when ratings are higher -- the entire postseason was elongated and shifted, giving an advantage to top starters like Cole Hamels of the Phillies, above. (Jonathan Ernst - Reuters)

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By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This is the year of the Chicago Cubs. After the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox -- back-to-back in 2004 and 2005 -- snapped World Series droughts of 86 years and 88 years, respectively, the Cubs arrive at the 2007 postseason ready to end their own 99-year run of futility and complete the holy trinity.

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But there's that problem with the pitching . . . .

Then this definitely is the year of Alex Rodriguez. The New York Yankees' superstar third baseman -- and their fans' favorite October target -- just posted the best season of his career, and needs only one memorable October to end all the silly talk about him not being a "real Yankee."

But the pitching . . . .

Know what this really is? It's the year of the Philadelphia Phillies -- no, check that . . . the Colorado Rockies. Both teams were written off only a matter of days ago, the Phillies seven games back of the New York Mets with 17 games to play, the Rockies 4 1/2 games out in the wild-card race with 14 to play. But today, they meet in a matchup of unstoppable forces.

And, egads, the pitching . . . .

And let's not shortchange the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels, who steamrolled to their division leads in April and never relinquished them . . . or the Arizona Diamondbacks, who became only the fourth team in history to make the playoffs despite being outscored by opponents . . . or the Cleveland Indians, who haven't lost a series since Aug. 10-12.

But what about the pitching?

This was a season of profound parity in Major League Baseball -- only the second year in history in which no teams finished with a winning percentage of greater than .600 or worse than .400, and a season in which seven of the eight playoff participants from 2006 failed to make it back -- so why should the race to become fate's Chosen One this month be any different?

By now, given the unlikely October ascent of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals -- who had neither a great pitching staff, a great offense, a battle-tested closer, a strong September or a snowball's chance in You-Know-Where, yet still somehow won the World Series -- it is clear that any attempt to pick a winner from the postseason starting field of eight is futile at best.

"I've learned the hard way that in the postseason everything goes out the window," New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. "Nothing can be deemed an advantage or a disadvantage."

And yet it wouldn't be October without horribly misguided predictions, and so we'll have one at the end of this story.


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