Last week I wrote that the Phillies bullpen was very good at preventing extra-base hits and especially home runs in 2008. It would be nice to see the Phils continue that success in 2009 and hopefully they will. It’s important to be aware, though, that many of the pitchers in last year’s pen allowed extra-base hits at a rate far below their career levels prior to 2008. Here’s a look at five guys who faced at least 200 hitters in relief for the Phils in 2008 who will be part of the ’09 picture as well, comparing the rate at which they allowed extra-base hits last year compared to what they had done the rest of their careers:

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Condrey allowed extra-base hits more regularly in 2008 than he had over the rest of his career, giving up one every 11.7 plate appearances in ’08 compared to one every 12.7 plate appearances for the rest of his career. The other four guys in the group were better at preventing extra-base hits, and all of them were better at it by a larger margin than Condrey was worse. The most improvement compared to his career numbers coming into ’08 was shown by Durbin — Durbin had allowed an extra-base hit every 11.2 plate appearances coming into the season and allowed one every 21.5 plate appearances in ’08. Lidge was second, he had allowed an extra-base hit every 15.2 plate appearances coming into ’08 and allowed one every 22.5 during ’08.

So Lidge was better at preventing extra-base hits in ’08, but the improvement relative to his overall rate of preventing overall hits in 2008 was not as dramatic as it was for Durbin.

Here are how many plate appearances there were between home runs on average for the five pitchers in 2008 compared to the rest of their careers:

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Lidge faced 292 hitters in ’08 and just two of them homered. The first was memorable. On July 25, Lidge started the ninth against the Braves down 1-0. Atlanta scored seven times in an inning punctuated by a grand slam by Brian McCann off of Lidge. Lidge was charged five runs in the game without getting an out. It was one of two games in the season in which he allowed more than one run in a game — he allowed as many runs in that game as he had in his first 35 appearances on the year. The other home run came less than ten days later. On August 3, Lidge started the ninth up 5-3 and allowed a solo homer to Troy Glaus. Lidge pitched out of a bases loaded jam and the Phils held on to win 5-4.

Anyway, back to the point and the point is that Lidge allowed home runs at a much better rate in 2008 than he had over his career.

Durbin was also very good compared to the other years of his career, but not quite as good as Lidge. Also notable is how frequently Durbin had given up homers coming into 2008.

Romero actually allowed home runs at a tiny bit higher rate compared to his career coming into 2008. Previous to 2008 he had allowed a home run once every 51.5 plate appearances. In 2008 he gave up five home runs to the 255 hitters he faced — that’s one every 51 plate appearances.

Madson and Condrey were better at preventing home runs than they had been in previous years, but not by as wide a margin as Lidge or Durbin.

The Phillies played three games since the last post, during which Feliz and Utley each saw their first spring action. The Phils won two of three and are 6-9 in spring training.

Utley played today as the Phils beat St Louis 2-1. Park made the start and was outstanding again. He allowed three singles in 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out six and lowered his spring ERA to 1.54. In 11 2/3 innings this spring he has thrown to an 0.86 ratio, allowing ten hits without walking a batter.

Jason Ellison doubled in Miguel Cairo in the ninth to get the Phils the win. Utley was 0-for-2. Werth 2-for-3 with a double and a home run. Cairo 2-for-2 to raise his average to .370. Giles 0-for-1 to drop his to .167. Mayberry 0-for-1. Donald 0-for-3.

Yesterday the Phils beat Houston 5-2.

Carrasco got the start and allowed a run on four hits and two walks over three innings. He struck out four. Borkowski threw a scoreless fourth, walking two. Andrew Carpenter had a nice outing in what’s been a miserable spring for him. He struck out four while allowing a run over four innings. Koplove pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save, striking out two and allowing a single.

Werth was 1-for-2 with a walk, a homer and two RBI. Ozuna was at DH and went 3-for-4 with three singles and a stolen base. Donald was 1-for-4 with a single and two stolen bases. His career high in stolen bases in the minor leagues is 12 and he’s been safe in 28 of 38 minor league attempts (74%). Giles was 0-for-4 and left five men on base. Mayberry 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

On Friday, the Pirates beat the Phillies 6-5.

Blanton got the start and allowed two runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings. The Phils took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning, but Blaine Neal allowed a three-run homer to Jeff Salazar.

Howard hit a two-run homer for the Phils. Mayberry was 1-for-3 with a double and struck out twice. Donald 2-for-5 with a triple. Giles 0-for-2. Cairo 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI. Feliz played third and went 0-for-2.

On Saturday, Puerto Rico beat Team USA 11-1. Victorino was 0-for-3. Rollins played but didn’t get an at-bat. Romero did not pitch for Puerto Rico. Team USA plays The Netherlands tonight and the team that loses is eliminated from the tournament. Puerto Rico plays Venezuela tomorrow night, but the loser is not eliminated. Rodrigo Lopez and Team Mexico play Korea tonight.

The Phillies play the Yankees tomorrow afternoon. Kyle Kendrick is expected to pitch and needs to pitch well off of two miserable appearances.

Utley appears to be on schedule to play opening day.

Update 3/16/09: Team USA beat The Netherlands 9-3. Rollins had a big day, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run and four RBI. Victorino was 0-for-1. Korea beat Mexico 8-2. Lopez did not pitch.

More update 3/16/09: Cole Hamels has a sore elbow and will fly back to Philadelphia tonight to have the elbow examined by the team physician. That can’t be that good.