Yesterday I pointed out that Raul Ibanez has been hitting relief pitching really well this season. He has company on the Phillies. Here’s what the team has done this year and in the four previous seasons the first, second and third or more times they’ve faced a starter in a game and what they’ve done against relief pitchers:

  2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
SP1 .747 .715 .819 .751 .737
SP2 .758 .755 .815 .884 .771
SP3+ .803 .912 .904 .789 .812
RP .846 .747 .770 .771 .774
           
Total OPS for season .795 .770 .812 .794 .772

As a team, through the first 37 games of 2009, the Phillies are hitting to a better OPS against relief pitchers than they are against starting pitchers. They have even been better against relief pitchers than they have been in their plate appearances in which they were facing the starting pitcher for the third time in the game.

The .846 OPS they are putting up against relievers is their best mark in the last five seasons. The team OPS for the year against relievers has generally been worse than their OPS against relief-pitching, with the exception of this season (when they have been much better against relievers than they’ve been overall) and 2005 (when the team’s OPS against relievers was very similar to what it was overall for the year).

All this means that Ibanez can’t be the only Phillie hitting relievers well. And he’s not. In 2008, the Phillies had one player who got at least 19 plate appearances against relief pitchers and put up an OPS of .900 or better against them. So far in 2009, the Phils have five. They are, in order of their OPS against relievers: Ibanez (1.476), Utley (1.232), Feliz (1.229), Stairs (1.065) and Werth (.928).

Noticeably absent from that list Ryan Howard and his .964 career OPS. You might assume that Howard will join the list before the season is over. And maybe he will. He has, however, struggled badly against relief pitching in recent history. So far in 2009 he has a 173/246/365 line against relievers and in 2008 he hit just 193/306/431 against relief pitching. Between 2008 and 2009, Howard is hitting 189/295/419 in his last 312 plate appearances against relievers.

From 2005 through 2007, Howard put up an OPS of at least .900 against relievers in each season (just barely in 2007, though, he hit .239 against them with a .904 OPS).

You can see the Phillies’ splits against relievers for 2009 here.

Happ will replace Park in the Phillies rotation. His first start will be Saturday against the Yankees.