The Phillies went 45-57 in their first 102 games this year before trading two of their better hitters and replacing them with lesser offensive players. After they did, the team took off, going 21-14 in their 35 games since the deals sent Victorino and Pence packing.

So what’s going on?

What’s going on is that since the Phillies traded Victorino and Pence, the offense has gotten worse. Just like you would expect. But. The pitching has gotten enormously better. Enough better to offset the offensive dropoff and carry the team.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers since the Phillies traded Victorino and Pence:

W-L RS/Gm RA/Gm SP ERA SP Ratio RP ERA RP Ratio
Thru 7/29 45-57 4.20 4.56 4.07 1.24 4.53 1.38
After 7/29 21-14 4.09 3.51 3.02 1.15 4.08 1.14
Total 66-71 4.17 4.29 3.80 1.22 4.42 1.32

The Phillies scored 4.20 runs per game before they traded Victorino and Pence. In the games they’ve played since they traded them, they’ve scored 4.09 runs per game.

The Phillies were 12th in the NL in runs scored in August and went 17-12. They went 17-12 not because they were a good offensive team, but because they were fourth in the league in runs allowed.

In the games that the Phillies played before trading Victorino and Pence, they allowed an average of 4.56 runs per game. Since they traded that duo, they’ve cut more than a run off of that. They’ve allowed 3.51 runs per game in the 35 games they’ve played since Victorino and Pence left. Going into today’s games, the Nationals were the NL team that had allowed the fewest runs per game in 2012 with 3.56 per game.

So 3.51 per game is impressive.

The bullpen has been better over the past 35 games than they were over the first 102, dropping more than half a run off of their ERA while their ratio has plummeted. Remember that they were terrible for a long time there, though, and the 4.08 ERA they’ve thrown to in the last 35 games isn’t exactly fantastic. If the Phillie bullpen had thrown to a 4.08 ERA for the entire year, that would be eleventh-best in the NL. As it is, their 4.42 bullpen ERA overall is twelfth-best.

The improvement in preventing runs has a lot more to do with the starting pitching than it does the relievers. Two points on what the relievers have done over the past 35 games, though, as they have thrown to a very impressive 1.14 ratio:

  • Over the last 35 games, the relievers have allowed just 59 hits in 86 innings. That’s an amazingly low hit rate of 6.17 hits per nine innings. Going into today’s games, Cincinnati’s bullpen had the lowest rate of hits allowed per nine innings for the season in the league at 7.27.
  • They have walked a ton of hitters in the same 35 games — 39 in 86 innings. That’s a walk rate of 4.08 per nine innings. Going into today’s games, only three NL teams had seen their relievers walk more than four batters per nine. The Dodgers had walked 4.07 per nine, the Brewers 4.18 and the Cubs 4.56 (Chicago relievers had walked 201 hitters in 396 2/3 innings). Here’s the list of Phillie relievers with a walk rate of 4.19 per nine or worse for the season: Schwimer, Sanches, Horst, Aumont, Bastardo, Stutes, Diekman, Rosenberg, Lindblom, De Fratus. Those ten pitchers have combined to throw 165 1/3 innings for the Phillies this year in which they have allowed 96 walks. That’s a walk rate of 5.23 per nine.

Again, the improvement overall in preventing runs has a lot more to do with what the starters have done than what the relievers have. The starters throw more than 70% of the innings for one thing, so even if the improvement of each of the groups had been about the same, the impact of the improvement by the starters would be much greater.

But the starters have improved more in the past 35 games than the relievers.

Here’s a look at what the guys in the rotation did before and after the trades of Victorino and Pence:

GS

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

ERA

Ratio

Hamels

20

138.67

121

56

51

39

138

3.31

1.15

Blanton

20

132.67

139

73

67

18

115

4.55

1.18

Lee

17

118.33

119

53

52

23

112

3.95

1.20

thru 7/29

Worley

17

102.00

109

49

44

36

91

3.88

1.42

Halladay

14

89.33

88

43

43

16

72

4.33

1.16

Kendrick

13

75.33

82

42

38

25

55

4.54

1.42

Valdes

1

2.00

2

3

3

2

2

13.50

2.00

Total

102

658.33

660

319

298

159

585

4.07

1.24

GS

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

ERA

Ratio

Halladay

7

48.00

43

16

16

9

37

3.00

1.08

Lee

7

50.33

49

16

14

3

49

2.50

1.03

Kendrick

7

42.67

37

15

14

7

28

2.95

1.03

after 7/29

Hamels

6

44.67

39

12

11

8

40

2.22

1.05

Worley

6

31.00

45

20

18

11

16

5.23

1.81

Cloyd

2

13.00

11

4

4

2

14

2.77

1.00

Total

35

229.67

224

83

77

40

184

3.02

1.15

Over the first 102 games of the season, Hamels was the only pitcher on the team who started at least one game for the Phillies and threw to an ERA under 3.88. Over the last 35 games, the rotation as a group has thrown to a 3.02 ERA.

Worley hasn’t been good in his six starts since the Phillies traded away Victorino and Pence. In the 29 starts not made by Worley since the trades, though, the rotation has a 2.67 ERA with a 1.05 ratio — every one of the five guys who has started at least one of those games has been very good. That group includes Halladay, Hamels, Lee and, more surprisingly, Kendrick and Cloyd.

The Phillies are going to win a huge percentage of their games in which their starters throw to the 3.02 ERA and a 1.15 ratio like they have since the trade. The Nationals have the best rotation in the NL in 2012 — they’ve thrown to 3.25 ERA for the year with a 1.17 ratio. In 2011, you may remember, the Phillies won 102 games behind a fantastic starting rotation. That group led the league with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.11 ratio. Nobody else was close — the Giant rotation had the second-best starter ERA for the year at 3.28.