Is this year’s Phillies team better than the 2008 team? Seems like a pretty easy question, but the answer you get is going to depend on who you ask and when and maybe whether or not the Phillies have just lost five of six.

First things first. In 2008 the Phillies went 92-70 in the regular season. Not counting last night’s game, nothing in this post includes results from yesterday’s games, the Phillies had a .573 winning percentage for 2009. That would put them on pace to go 93-69.

They score more runs per game in 2009 than they did in 2008:

  G R R per G
2009 103 547 5.31
2008 162 799 4.93

But they allow more runs per game than they did last year too:

  G R R per G
2009 103 475 4.61
2008 162 680 4.20

The rate they score and allow runs are both up compared to last year, but the rate they allow runs is up a little more than they rate they score them. In 2009 they have scored about 1.077 times the runs per game they scored last year, but they have allowed about 1.095 times the runs per game.

That means their run differential has gotten a tiny bit worse in 2009. In 2008 they scored an average of 4.93 runs per game and allowed an average of 4.20 runs per game. That’s a difference of .73 runs per game, which is a tiny bit more than their 2009 run differential of .70 runs per game (5.31 minus 4.61).

Cliff Lee to the rescue, I hear you cry? Maybe so. We’ll see. Raul Ibanez hit 343/407/702 in his first 46 games of the season, though, and that might not even happen again.

How about the Phillies in ’09 compared to the rest of the NL versus the Phillies ’08 compared to the rest of the NL? Here’s the Phillies rates for scoring and allowing runs for the last two years compared to the rates for the other 15 teams in the NL:

Other NL Teams

2009 4.36 4.50 5.31 4.61
2008 4.51 4.66 4.93 4.20

The Phils are scoring a monster 1.22 times as many runs per game as the average of the other teams in the league in ’09. That’s way up from 2008 when they scored more runs than the average of the other NL teams, but not by nearly as much. In ’08 they scored about 1.09 times as many runs per game as the other 15 teams in the league.

In 2008, though, they also allowed significantly fewer runs per game than the average of the other 15 teams in the NL. They allowed 4.20 runs per game, which is about .9 times (or 90%) the runs per game allowed on average by the rest of the league. This year they’ve allowed more runs than the average of the other teams — 4.61 per game, which is 1.02 times (or about 102% of) the runs that the other NL teams had allowed on average.

The Phillies have been better at scoring runs and worse than preventing runs in 2009 than they were in 2008. But have they been better overall? I think it’s very, very close. The Phillies may have slightly improved relative to the other teams in the NL, but compared to their ’08 incarnation I think the answer is no. The good news, though, is that the reason that the answer is no is that the pitching has been hugely unimpressive. Given how they score runs it doesn’t need to be that impressive — if the Phils can continue to improve their pitching and even get down to the point where they are allowing runs at the average level of the other teams in the league they should be in very good shape compared both to the rest of the NL in ’09 and the Phillies of ’08.

So Taguchi, by the way, signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in January. He’s 40 now and spent the year at Triple-A where he hit 277/380/379 in 177 at-bats. He hit his third home run of the season yesterday.

This says that Romero is scheduled to make a rehab appearance on Friday and that Durbin will make a rehab appearance tonight.