Strike One -- Trophy Case Dept.
It's been an award-winning postseason -- in more ways than one. Consider all this ...
• October showdowns don't get any better than an MVP facing a Cy Young. And it's possible that just happened in the LDS in both leagues. It's more likely in the NL, where Joey Votto wound up on the wrong end of Roy Halladay's no-hitter. And it's at least possible in the AL, with Josh Hamilton facing David Price.
Well, it's not quite the first time. But it doesn't happen every year, either. We've had six other series in the last quarter-century where the MVP and Cy Young came face-to-face in any postseason series:
2007 ALDS -- Alex Rodriguez vs. CC Sabathia
1988 World Series -- Jose Canseco vs. Orel Hershiser
1985 World Series -- Willie McGee vs. Bret Saberhagen
Special citation -- In 1983, Cal Ripken Jr. faced a Cy Young in both his postseason series (LaMarr Hoyt in the ALCS, John Denny in the World Series). Ditto Reggie Jackson in 1973 (Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver).
Special citation No. 2 -- In two other years, a Cy Young faced both MVPs in the same postseason. In 1979, Mike Flanagan saw Don Baylor and Willie Stargell. In 1973, Seaver saw Pete Rose and Reggie.
• Now next up, the NLCS is about to give us a tremendous Game 1 duel of last year's Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, against the guy likely to win this year's Cy, Halladay. The Elias Sports Bureau reports this would be just the fourth Game 1 of any postseason series -- and the sixth meeting ever -- between that season's Cy Young and the previous Cy.
The other Game 1s:
1970 ALCS -- Mike Cuellar vs. Jim Perry
1986 NLCS -- Dwight Gooden vs. Mike Scott
1991 NLCS -- Doug Drabek vs. Tom Glavine
The other two meetings:
Game 2, 1986 World Series -- Dwight Gooden vs. Roger Clemens
Game 3, 1999 ALCS -- Roger Clemens vs. Pedro Martinez
And how did those games turn out? Cy Present's team won three of the five (Pedro in '99, Clemens in '86, Scott in '86). Cy Past's team won two (Drabek in '91. Cuellar in '70).
• Finally, we've also had a postseason that could include both leagues' rookies of the year -- Buster Posey or Jason Heyward in the NL, Neftali Feliz in the AL. If so, this could be the sixth year in the wild-card era in which a league's MVP, Cy Young and rookie of the year all made it to the postseason in the same year. But in the National League, they'd be representing three different teams. And that's happened just three times in the wild-card era:
2007 AL -- A-Rod (MVP), CC Sabathia (Cy Young), Dustin Pedroia (ROY)
1995 NL -- Barry Larkin (MVP), Greg Maddux (Cy), Hideo Nomo (ROY)
The more great players show up in October, the more we love it. So you can't beat this.
Strike Two -- Parity Dept.
Now that the Reds and Rangers have made it to the postseason for the first time in this millennium, it's amazing to look back and see how many different franchises have gotten an invitation to the postseason party in recent years.
• In the past eight seasons, 24 different teams have played at least one postseason series -- an incredible amount of postseason turnover in a sport where only eight teams make it.
• Only two of the 16 NL teams haven't made the playoffs over those last eight seasons -- the Nationals/Expos and the Pirates.
• And 10 of the 14 AL teams have gotten there -- everyone but the Royals, Orioles, Blue Jays and Mariners. And Seattle made it as recently as 2001, and has won 93 games twice since without making it.
• So how does that compare to the NFL -- a league with 50 percent more playoff teams? Very comparable. The NFL also has just six teams that haven't made the playoffs over the last eight years -- the 49ers, Raiders, Browns, Bills, Texans and Lions.
• But you might be surprised to learn that the NFL is more susceptible to that old the-same-teams-win-every-year argument than baseball is. In the NFL, 11 teams have made at least five playoff appearances over the last 10 seasons. In baseball, only eight teams have -- the Yankees (9), Cardinals (7), Red Sox (6), Angels (6), Braves (6), A's (5) and Twins (5).
• And 16 NFL teams have made the playoffs at least four times in the last 10 years, compared with just 10 baseball teams (the eight above, plus the Phillies and Dodgers).
So which sport really spreads the playoff glory around? You decide. We just present the facts around here.
Strike Three -- Useless October Info. Dept.
In other postseason news ...
• What's the Giants' big claim to fame heading into the NLCS? They're the answer to the trivia question: Name the only team that beat Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels this season. The two wins over Oswalt came when he was still an Astro, but it's still a fascinating wrinkle in that Phillies-Giants plot line.
• So many great ways to look at Lincecum-versus-Halladay on Saturday. Here's one more: ESPN research whiz Mark Simon asked the Elias Sports Bureau how many times since 1900 a pitcher coming off a regular-season no-hitter made his next start against a pitcher who was coming off a game in which he gave up no more than two hits. And the answer is: It's happened only twice:
April 20, 1917 -- Eddie Cicotte (White Sox) vs. Allen Sothoron (Browns)
May 17, 1996 -- Al Leiter (Marlins) vs. Jim Bullinger (Cubs)
• And that Cliff Lee-David Price mano a mano in Tampa Bay on Tuesday wasn't too shabby either. According to Elias, it's just the fifth winner-take-all postseason game since 1960 in which each starting pitcher got selected for the All-Star Game that year. The other four:
1967 World Series -- Bob Gibson vs. Jim Lonborg
1973 NLCS -- Tom Seaver vs. Jack Billingham
2001 World Series -- Curt Schilling vs. Roger Clemens.
• When the Giants ousted the Braves on Monday, their starting pitcher (Madison Bumgarner) and catcher (Buster Posey) were both rookies. Elias reports it's only the second time a team with an all-rookie battery won a postseason clincher. We're betting you don't remember the other -- of Hugh Bedient and Hick Cady, who teamed up for the Red Sox the day they finished off Christy Mathewson and the Giants in Game 8 of the 1912 World Series.
• In Game 1 of the NLDS, you might recall that the Reds got no-hit. So what happened in Game 2? Their first hitter, Brandon Phillips, hit a leadoff homer. So how often, wondered loyal reader Evan Jones, do you see that kind of no-hitter non-suspense? Almost never, of course. Only three times, after the last 100 regular-season no-hitters, has the team that got no-hit come back to hit a leadoff bomb the next day. Those three, according to Elias:
July 4, 1970 -- Bert Campaneris (A's), following a Clyde Wright no-hitter.
Sept. 12, 1991 -- Darrin Jackson (Padres), after a Braves no-hitter by committee.
• It always seems bizarre when a pitcher who threw no shutouts all season pitches a shutout in the postseason. But when Cole Hamels joined that club Sunday, it was actually the sixth time that's happened since 2000. The others:
Finally, here are your October box-score lines of the week, presented by loyal reader Stephen Currie. How 'bout Braves reliever Peter Moylan who -- thanks to defensive glitches beyond his control -- unfurled exactly the same line back-to-back in Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS:
0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0 Balks
Currie's question: Has any reliever ever done that in two consecutive postseason games?
The answer, according to baseball-reference.com's Play Index: No reliever has ever done it in two postseason games, period.
And the only time in the last 60 years any reliever even did it in back-to-back regular-season games: Dennys Reyes, for the Reds, on Sept. 20-23, 2001. Now that's October craziness at its finest.