The Phillies bullpen was fantastic in 2008, but 2008 is over and 2009 has seemingly brought more than one problem to the Phils’ relief corps. Through the first 11 games of 2009, the pen has been a little tough to watch. Curiously, however, they have been better at preventing hits and walks than they were overall in 2008 and have struck out hitters more regularly. Whatever could it be?

Remember this? If you don’t, compared to the other bullpens in the National League, the thing the Phillies excelled at in 2008 was preventing extra-base hits and especially preventing home runs.

This year, not so much.

The chart below compares the rates of runs, hits, walks, strikeouts, extra-base hits and home runs per nine innings for the ’08 pen and the ’09 pen.

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In ’09, again, the rates for allowing hits and walks and striking people out are all better. The rate for allowing extra-base hits is worse by a little and the rate for allowing home runs is worse by a lot (through 11 games the Phillies pen has allowed about 2.72 times as many home runs per nine innings as they did last year).

Only one National League team, the Rockies, has had their bullpen allow more home runs than the eight that the Phillies have allowed (Houston and Washington have also each allowed eight).

While the rate the Phils pen has allowed extra-base hits is up in ’09 compared to ’08, they are still below the NL average. The average NL pen has given up 3.22 extra-base hits per nine innings compared to 2.82 per nine innings for the Phils. When it comes to home runs it’s a different story — 1.88 per nine for the Phils compared to 1.19 for the NL bullpens overall.

Finally, it’s important to remember that while the bullpen has been bad for the Phils so far this season it isn’t as big a problem as the starting pitching has been. The Phillies pen has thrown to a 5.63 ERA so far, which is 12th-best of the 16 NL teams. Their starters on the other hand, have a 7.67 ERA, which is the worst ERA for starters in either league.

Jamie Moyer (1-1, 6.55) faces lefty Manny Parra (0-2, 6.97) tonight as the Phillies play the first of three against Milwaukee. Moyer has allowed four runs in each of his starts, going five innings against the Braves in his first start and six innings against the Nats in his second. He’s allowed 16 hits in 11 innings. Opponents are hitting .340 against him. Parra has also made two starts on the season and fared better in the second. He allowed three runs to the Reds over six innings a week ago today. Opponents have hit just .231 against him this year, but he’s walked six in 10 1/3 innings. He made one start against the Phils last year and didn’t make it out of the second inning.