In 2010, the Phillies were outstanding at preventing walks. They walked just 416 batters, which was the fewest that any National League team had walked in a season since the Mets walked 401 batters in 1995.

The effort was led by Halladay, who walked 30 hitters in 250 2/3 innings in 2010, but the pitchers other than Halladay on the 2010 Phils were good at preventing walks as well. The non-Halladay pitchers combined to walk batters at a lower rate than the Cardinals, who were the second-best pitching staff at preventing walks overall in 2010.

The Phils weren’t particularly outstanding at preventing walks when pitching in relief, though. Only four NL teams saw their relievers walk fewer batters in 2010, but the Phils called on their bullpen to pitch fewer innings than anyone in the NL. By walks allowed per inning pitched, the relievers of seven NL teams were better at preventing walks in 2010 than the Phillie relievers were.

That has slipped even further in the early part of this season. In 2011, the Phils have allowed fewer walks overall than any team in baseball (although the Braves, who have played three more games, are allowing slightly fewer walks per nine innings). The walk rate for the starters has gotten a little bit worse (2.57 per nine in 2010 to 2.71 per nine so far this year), but the walk rate for the relievers has gotten a lot worse.

The table below shows the number of innings pitched for the Phillies bullpen in the last two seasons, the number of walks and the rate at which each of the teams issued walks per nine innings and how those numbers rank in the NL for that year:

Year IP NL Rank BB NL Rank BB/9 NL Rank
2011 74 1/3 16 36 6 4.36 14
2010 421 16 177 12 3.78 8

So in both 2010 and 2011, the Phillies are at the bottom of the NL in terms of innings pitched by their relievers, but the rate at which their relievers have issued walks per nine innings has gone from the middle of the pack in 2010 to the bottom of it in 2011.

In looking to explain the problems with the walk rate for the bullpen in the early going, you have to look at Kendrick and Herndon. That duo has combined to walk 15 in 23 2/3 innings pitched, which is way too many. If you remove the numbers for Kendrick and Herndon, the bullpen is allowing walks at a very similar rate to 2010 — 3.78 per nine innings in 2010 and 3.73 for the non-Kendrick and Herndon pitchers in 2011.

Kendrick in particular is a guy whose walks we should be watching. He was fantastic as a 22-year-old in 2007. In that year he walked just 25 in 121 innings, about 1.86 per nine innings, and threw to a 3.87 ERA with a 1.27 ratio. Since the end of 2007, he’s allowed 2.95 walks per inning and thrown to a 4.86 ERA with a 1.47 ratio. So far in 2011 he’s walked eight in 13 innings, although four of the eight walks that he’s allowed have been intentional. He leads all pitchers in either league in intentional walks and is tied for 201st in innings pitched.

Cole Hamels (3-1, 3.13) faces righty Livan Hernandez (3-2, 3.23) tonight as Jayson Werth and the Nationals come to Philadelphia. Righties have done nothing with Hernandez this season — they’re hitting 230/284/297 against him for the year without a home run. He faced the Phils on April 12 and held them to a run over 6 2/3 innings. Blanton struggled in that game and Washington won 7-3. Hamels was hit hard by the Mets in his first start of the year and was charged with six runs in 2 2/3 innings. Since then he’s made four starts in which he’s thrown to a 1.55 ERA with an 0.90 ratio and struck out 31 in 29 innings. He’s gone at least seven innings in each of his last four starts.

Someone might know when Chase Utley will return, but it’s not me. According to this article, Utley played in a “semi-simulated” game on Sunday that involved running, fielding and, and I swear I’m not making this up, sitting in the dugout. So at least we can cross that milestone off the list. If he can just break through the drinking with a straw barrier we could see him any day now. It’s probably best if you just read the article, cause I promise I have no idea. I do think someone needs to consider calling, um, balderdash on the “semi-simulated” game, though, cause I’m not convinced that’s really a thing.

Ditto the having no idea on Domonic Brown, who is now hitting 333/385/625 between Clearwater and Lehigh Valley in his first 24 at-bats back.

This says that Oswalt could start on Saturday against the Braves.