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And pitchers followed that up with a strong showing in the expansion season of 1969 as well. There were six more no-nos that year.

Could that be a telling sign? Do the pitchers have a true advantage again in the days minus the monster power hitters such as home run king Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, all of whom cleared the fences at a remarkable rate?

“The Year of the Pitcher will continue,” said A’s manager Bob Geren, whose talented young staff led the AL in ERA last season at 3.56 and in shutouts with 17 while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. “The pitching seems to keep getting better, not worse.

“Some of the veteran guys, Roy Halladay and guys like that, they haven’t shown any signs of letting up. And the younger guys like ours are going to keep getting better.”

Braden went 0-5 in nine starts and dealt with an elbow injury after his perfect game before finally winning again July 25. He isn’t ready to predict a repeat performance of his improbable perfect game.

But start drafting those arms anyway, fantasy gurus.

With former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke moving to the NL with Milwaukee, improvements in “Tommy John” reconstructive elbow surgery helping pitchers like Francisco Liriano, Josh Johnson and Tim Hudson come back better than ever, and all those aces in Philly, it’s a tough time to be a hitter for a living.

“I don’t see why not,” Helton said of another season of dominant pitching. “All the pitchers we’re referring to, most of them haven’t even hit their prime yet.”

Like Helton’s teammate, Ubaldo Jimenez.

The 27-year-old Jimenez threw a no-hitter in his third start last season and was 15-1 by the All-Star break. He wound up at 19-8, just missing becoming the first 20-game winner in the Rockies‘ 18-year history.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of Year of the Pitchers,” Jimenez said. “As the years go by, I think we’re going to get better every year. It seems like everything is working. There are better pitchers.”

Two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum agrees.

He sees pitchers accomplishing so much at a younger age because they are doing more to prepare early. He, for one, has worked harder on his conditioning regimen between starts after a career-worst five-start losing streak last August _ a rare funk by The Freak.

The 26-year-old Lincecum broke into the majors in May 2007, less than a year after the Giants picked him 10th overall in the amateur draft out of Washington. He won 18 games and the first of his Cy Youngs a year later in his first full big league season. He’s been an All-Star each of the past three years, too.

“Pitchers are evolving a little bit more. They’ve got four pitches they can throw for strikes nowadays and they’re coming up younger and learning more quickly,” said the San Francisco ace, already picked the opening day starter for the reigning World Series champions.

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