I’m not sure you want to spend a whole lot of time looking for evidence from this season that the Phillies are better than the New York Yankees. The Yankees won 103 games in a league widely believed to have a higher level of play than the National League. Beyond that, even during their brilliant run of the past two seasons the Phillies have been pulverized by the AL in interleague play — after going 6-11 this year they are 10-23 in regular season action since the start of 2008.
I do think there’s a good case to be made for the Phillies in the World Series, however. The Phils are unique among the teams in either league in that the last time they lost a game they couldn’t afford to lose was in 2007. Just about everyone will roll their eyes when you say there’s something special about the Phillies and the way they shift into a higher gear for the playoffs. And with good reason. I would roll my eyes, too. It’s there, though. You can see it by watching them play. I can, at least. If you can’t, you can see it in the numbers. Over the past two years, the Phillies have simply been a better team in the post-season than they have in the regular season. They are 18-5 in 23 playoff games since the start of 2008.
Here’s how the runs the Phillies have scored and allowed over the past two years compare for the post-season and the regular season:
Facing better teams, the Phillies have scored more runs per game and allowed a lot fewer.
The margin by which they are winning playoff games also has increased this year compared to 2008:
The Phillies are on a tear with the bats. They’ve scored 55 runs in nine games. Their pitching hasn’t been as good as it was last year, but it’s been good and the offensive boost has been enough to get their difference between the average number of runs they’re scoring and allowing way up in 2009.
Runs allowed per game up or not, the Phillies are still pitching rather well this post-season. If you allowed 3.44 runs per game over a complete season you would give up about 557 runs. This year the Giants and the Dodgers were the best NL teams at preventing runs and they each allowed 611.
It may seem like the Phillies haven’t had the dominating pitching they had in the ’08 post-season this year. And they haven’t, in the bullpen especially. But the starting pitching has been a little better:
If you’re looking for stuff to worry about you may want to go with hoping that Cliff Lee stays healthy and keeps pitching well. The Phillies have four great starts in their nine post-season games so far. Lee has made three of them and Pedro made the other. In those four games the Phillies starters allowed two earned runs in 31 1/3 innings. They allowed 16 hits and three walks, throwing to an 0.57 ERA and an 0.61 ratio. That will do some nifty things for your team numbers for starting pitchers.
In the other five starts, Phillies starters have thrown to a 6.46 ERA and a 1.56 ratio.
The bullpen hasn’t been the same in the playoffs in ’09 as it was in ’08. It was pretty spectacular in ’08, though. The relievers have kept their ERA down in the playoffs in ’09, but they have allowed a lot of base-runners. In 25 innings they’ve allowed 25 hits and 11 walks. Sure wish they would get that walk rate down, but it’s been bad all year and it might be bad all post-season, too. The Phillies bullpen walked about 4.08 batters per nine innings in the regular season and have walked about 3.96 batters per nine innings in the post-season.