Just as long as he doesn’t have a problem with pitching like three innings a game.

The biggest worry for many Phillies fans as we head into the NLCS seems to be that the offense either just won’t show up or won’t be able to handle the San Francisco pitching. I sure hope that doesn’t happen, but there seems to be a whole lot of evidence that the Philly offense can hit just about anyone. Instead of worrying about the areas where we know the Phils are better than the Giants, I wonder if we should take some time to worry about the areas where we know San Francisco is better than the Phillies.

By that, of course, I mean the bullpens.

There is no argument to be made that the Phililes had a better bullpen that the Giants this year. The Phillies relief corps was in the middle of the pack in the NL while San Francisco was perhaps a tick less dominant that the Padres, but still at least the second-best bullpen in the league. Phillies relievers threw to a 4.02 ERA (tenth-best in the NL) and a 1.39 ratio (tenth-best), the Giants bullpen had a 2.99 ERA (second-best) and a 1.31 ratio (sixth).

It’s not really very close. There was one area where the Phillies had an advantage, though, and might still in the series. Here’s the NL rank for runs allowed per batter faced in innings six through nine for each team (the numbers include results for all pitchers for each team, not just relievers):

Inning SF PHI
6 1 4
7 1 12
8 9 1
9 3 12

So, you shouldn’t be hoping to put up a whole lot of runs against the Giants in the sixth, seventh or ninth, but you also shouldn’t be looking to do much against the Phils in the eighth.

If you’re a Phillies fan, you’re almost surely guessing that we have Ryan Madson to thank for his dominance in the eighth inning. And you’re right. But Madson wasn’t the only reliever who shined for the Phils in that role. Contreras was also fantastic in the eighth inning and got a lot of chances there, thanks to the toe incident that sidelined Madson early in the season. Madson wound up facing 114 batters in the eighth inning for the season and Contreras 111. As good as Madson was, Contreras pitched just about as much as Madson did in the eighth and was nearly as effective. Here’s what the duo did in the eighth for the season:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
Madson 29 2/3 1.52 0.81 32
Contreras 27 1/3 1.65 1.17 24

While it’s nifty that Contreras threw so well in the eighth over the course of the year, you have to wonder a little about how relevant that is going to be in the series. Contreras threw to a 5.63 ERA over his last eight appearances in the season. He had an 0.56 ERA in his first 18 appearances of 2010, but since June 1 he’s thrown 40 2/3 innings with a 4.43 ERA and a 1.40 ratio. If you see him pitching in the eighth in the NLCS it’s probably going to mean that Madson is hurt or the Phils are up or down by a lot of runs.

If there’s not a ton of reasons to have confidence in what Contreras might do at the back of the pen in the series, it sure seems like there is a lot of reason for confidence in Madson. Madson threw to a 1.04 ERA and an 0.89 ratio over his last 36 appearances to end the regular season, striking out 44 in 34 2/3 innings.

There’s more, though. The Phillies haven’t just been dominant in the eighth inning. The Giants have oddly also been ineffective, slipping into the bottom half in the NL in runs allowed per batter faced. They also floundered in the eighth inning in the NLDS against the Braves. Here are the numbers for their three relievers who have faced the most batters in the eighth inning, righties Sergio Romo and Guillermo Mota and lefty Jeremy Affedlt:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
S Romo 30 2/3 1.47 0.72 34
G Mota 22 1/3 6.45 1.30 15
J Affeldt 19 2/3 4.12 1.63 19

There’s not a lot of mystery about who was helping and hurting the Giants in the eighth during the regular season — Romo was really good and Mota and Affeldt, especially Mota, were less good. Romo didn’t have a good NLDS, allowing hits to both men he faced in game two and allowing a run while getting two outs in game three. He ended the set with a 40.50 ERA and a 4.50 ratio for the post-season. The Giants let righty Santiago Casilla and lefty Javier Lopez handle the eighth with a one-run lead in game four. Casilla threw to a 1.95 ERA with the Giants and struck out 56 in 55 1/3 innings, but he pitched more in both the sixth and seventh innings than he did the eighth this season.

The ninth inning has been a different story, of course. Brian Wilson has been perhaps the best closer in the league after Billy Wagner, leading the NL with 48 saves while throwing to a 1.81 ERA and an 1.18 ratio for the season.

Here’s what the two guys that faced the most batters in the ninth for each team did in the inning:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
B Wilson 54 2/3 1.81 1.10 69
J Affeldt 15 2/3 3.45 1.47 15
B Lidge 37 2/3 3.58 1.27 43
R Madson 18 1/3 4.42 1.31 25

No contest there between Wilson and Lidge. Neither Madson or Affeldt impressed with their chances in the ninth, but Wilson and Lidge are going to be the guys looking to convert save opportunities in the series. Opponents hit for about the same average against Wilson and Lidge, .207 against Lidge and .210 for Wilson, but Wilson threw 17 more innings in the ninth and allowed fewer homer runs (three for Wilson and five for Lidge) and walked fewer hitters (17 for Wilson and 19 for Lidge).