A 49-30 mark through the first 79 games of the season gives the Phils a .620 winning percentage and puts them on a pace to win 100 regular season games this year. Here’s how that pace and their record through 79 games compares to what they’ve done since 2008:

Year Wins Record after
79 games
2011 100 (pace) 49-30
2010 97 42-37
2009 93 42-37
2008 92 43-36

But are the Phillies really better this year than they were any of the previous three? Yeah. I think they are. At least compared to the rest of the National League.

The table below shows, for this year and the three previous, the number of runs the Phillies have scored and allowed per game this season and how that compares to the rest of the NL (not including yesterday’s games):

Year R/G NL average
R/G
PHI/NL AVG A/G NL AVG A/G PHI/NL AVG
2011 4.05 4.09 0.990 (-1.0) 3.25 4.15 .783 (+21.7) 20.7
2010 4.77 4.33 1.102 (+10.2) 3.95 4.35 .908 (+9.2) 19.4
2009 5.06 4.43 1.142 (+14.2) 4.38 4.49 .976 (+2.4) 16.6
2008 4.93 4.54 1.086 (+8.6) 4.20 4.63 .907 (+9.3) 17.9

For example, in 2011, the Phillies have scored 4.05 runs per game and allowed 3.25 runs per game. The average NL team has scored 4.09 runs per game and allowed 4.15. 4.05 is about .990 of 4.09, so the Phils are scoring about .990 the runs per game as the average NL team. They are way better at preventing runs, though, allowing just 3.25 runs per game compared to 4.15 for the average NL team. 3.25 is about 21.7% lower than 4.15. If you combine the two numbers, -1 for the hitting and +21.7, you get the number in the far right column — 20.7 in this case.

And 20.7 is better than any of the results for the other three years.

Those numbers suggest that compared to the average NL teams for those seasons, the 2011 Phils are the best, followed by ’10, ’08 and ’09 in that order. That’s the same result you get if you use their Pythagorean winning percentage — ’11 is best, on pace for 96 wins, 95 wins for ’10, 93 for ’08 and 92 for ’09.

The 2009 team had the best offense and the worst pitching, while the ’08 team was a tiny bit better at preventing runs than the ’10 Phils, but not as good at scoring them. For all of the teams, the Phils have always been above average at both scoring and preventing runs over the past four years with the exception of the 2011 Phillies, who have scored fewer runs than average for the league.

They have made up for that with unbelievable pitching.

A National League team hasn’t allowed 3.25 runs per game for a season for a long time (and, of course, the ’11 Phillies haven’t done it yet). In the strike-shortened 1981 season, both the Dodgers (3.24) and Astros (3.01) allowed less than 3.25 runs per game over 110 games. In 1968, Bob Gibson threw to a 1.12 ERA over 304 2/3 innings and the Cardinals (2.91), Mets (3.06), Dodgers (3.14) and Giants (3.25) all allowed 3.25 runs per game or fewer.

In 1968, the pitching was so dominant that the average NL team allowed just 3.43 runs per game. So even Gibson’s Cardinals, who allowed 2.91 runs per game, allowed about 84.8% of the average runs per game for an NL team. The Phillies this year are allowing about 78.3% of the average runs per game.

Of the six teams listed above, the only one that has a lower mark compared to the rest of their league for that season is the 1981 Houston Astros. The Astros allowed 3.01 runs per game that season while the NL overall allowed 3.91 — so Houston was allowing about 77.0% of the runs per game as the average NL team.

But. While the Phillies pitching staff has been outstanding this year, there have been others that have been equally or more dominant in recent years.

Going back to 1968, there have been several teams that have allowed fewer than the 78.3% of the average runs per game the Phils have allowed this year without allowing 3.25 runs per game or less. They include the ’93 (76.8), ’97 (78.0) and ’98 (78.0) Braves and the 2003 Dodgers (74.5).

The 2003 Dodgers finished eight games above .500 and in second-place in the NL West. They didn’t even make the playoffs, beaten out for the Wild Card by the Marlins. The ’98 Braves won 106 games but lost to the Padres in the NLCS. In 1997 they 101 games and lost to the Fish in the NLCS. In 1993 they won 104 games and the NL West, but lost to the Phils in the NLCS.

The ’03 Dodgers had a pitiful offense, the worst in the league. All three of the Atlanta teams had a better offense relative to the rest of their league in that season than the Phils have had relative to the rest of the NL so far this year.

To end on a high note, the one World Series that Atlanta did manage to win in their pitching-fed run of the 90′s came in 1995. That year the Braves did have the best pitching in the league (81.0% of the average runs allowed per game), but also had a below average offense, which scored just 4.48 runs per game compared to a league average of 4.63.