Over the last three seasons, the Phillies have dramatically lowered the rate at which they strike out. Here’s the team’s rank in the National League for total strikeouts by their hitters over the past four seasons (where “16″ means the team whose batters struck out the most times that year and “1″ means the team whose batters struck out the least):

Year NL Rank Strikeouts
2007 14
2008 9
2009 8
2010 3

In 2007, only two teams, the Marlins and the Padres, struck out more than the Phillies. By 2010, only two teams struck out less (St Louis and Houston).

In 2007, NL hitters struck out in about 17.31% of their plate appearances. In 2010, it was about 19.31%. Here’s the list of Phillies in 2007 and 2010 that got at least 150 plate appearances and the percentage of the plate appearances in which they struck out.

’10 Player PA % SO % SO/%SO for league ’07 Player PA % SO % SO/%SO for league
Ryan Howard 620 25.3 1.31 Ryan Howard 648 30.7 1.77
Jayson Werth 652 22.5 1.17 Jayson Werth 304 24.0 1.39
Greg Dobbs 176 22.2 1.15 Wes Helms 308 20.1 1.16
Pat Burrell 598 20.1 1.16
Ben Francisco 197 17.8 0.92 Greg Dobbs 358 18.7 1.08
Raul Ibanez 636 17.0 0.88 Aaron Rowand 684 17.4 1.01
Carlos Ruiz 433 12.5 0.65
Chase Utley 511 12.3 0.64 Abraham Nunez 287 16.7 0.97
Shane Victorino 648 12.2 0.63 Tad Iguchi 156 14.7 0.85
Wilson Valdez 363 11.8 0.61 Chase Utley 613 14.5 0.84
Jimmy Rollins 394 8.1 0.42 Shane Victorino 510 12.2 0.70
Placido Polanco 602 7.8 0.40 Carlos Ruiz 429 11.4 0.66
Jimmy Rollins 778 10.9 0.63

So, in 2010, NL players overall struck out in a higher percentage of their plate appearances (19.31% to 17.31%). The overall strikeout rates for ’07 and ’10 regulars Howard, Werth, Utley and Rollins were all down in 2010 compared to 2007. The rate for Ruiz was up, but in both years he struck out less than an average NL hitter. For Victorino it was about the same and stayed low.

For Howard, especially, it’s important to note that while the strikeout rate for the league was going up, his was going down. So in 2007, when he struck out in about 30.7% of his plate appearances, that was almost 1.8 times as often as the league average. His rate was down to 25.3% in 2010, which was only about 1.3 times as often as the league average of 19.31%.

That leaves left field and third base.

In left field, the Phillies replaced Burrell, whose ’07 strikeout rate was above league average, with Ibanez. In 2010, Ibanez’s strikeout rate was below league average.

In 2007, Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nunez all played at least 400 innings at third base for the Phillies. Dobbs and Helms both struck out more than the average for the league while Nunez was just below league average. In 2010, Polanco played about 75% of the innings at third for the Phils. There were two NL players who got 150 plate appearances in 2010 and struck out in a lower percentage of them than Polanco. Jeff Keppinger struck out in 6.3% of his 575 plate appearances and David Eckstein struck out in 7.1% of his 492.

Finally, Rollins struck out in about 8.1% of his plate appearances last year. There were only three NL players in 2010 that got 150 plate appearances and struck out less often than he did — Polanco, Eckstein and Keppinger.

This article suggests that Durbin could return to the Phils on a minor league contract. That would be great for the Phillies if it happened, but I sure would be surprised.

The article linked above also mentions that Bastardo continues to have problems with his arm and a stomach illness and will not throw in any of the first five Grapefruit League games.