This post from January, 2011, pointed out that during the 2010 season the Phillies walked just 416 batters, which was the fewest walks issued by any National League team. Not only was it the best mark in the NL that year, it was also the fewest number of walks issued by an NL pitching staff since Expos walked 401 in 1995.

The Phils followed 2010 up with two seasons in which their pitchers walked fewer batters than they had in 2010. They walked 416 in 2010, 404 in 2011 and 409 in 2012.

Today’s point is that those days are gone — if not forever, for a long time. The Phillies didn’t lead the league in fewest walks allowed in 2013 and didn’t come close. Here’s how they’ve ranked in fewest walks issued in the NL over the past five seasons:

Year NL Rank fewest BB
2009 2
2010 1
2011 1
2012 1
2013 9

Coming off of three straight years in which they were the best team in the NL at preventing walks, the Phils walked 506 batters in 2013 in a season when the average NL team walked 481. Only one NL team, the Rockies, pitched fewer innings than the Phillies for the year and Colorado only pitched a third of an inning less than the Phils. The 8.14% of batters that the ’13 Phillie pitchers walked was ninth-best and the 3.17 walks per nine they issued was tenth-best.

Forced to guess, I think I would have likely concluded that the combination of the huge number of innings pitched by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee from 2009-2012 and their low walk rates carried the Phils to league-best marks in the category. That’s wrong, though, or at least incomplete. A look at the numbers will show that the walk rate for the Phillies other than Halladay, Hamels and Lee has increased significantly.

For example, this post from February, 2011, suggested that while Halladay had a lot to do with the success in 2010 at preventing walks, he wasn’t the only factor. During 2010, Halladay threw 250 2/3 innings for the Phils and walked just 30. However, as impressive as Halladay was at preventing walks, the team’s success in this area wasn’t just about one guy or one performance. If you removed Halladay’s performance from the 2010 numbers, the other Phillie pitchers still issued walks at a lower rate than the Cardinals, the second-best team in the NL at preventing walks in 2010.

That works if you add Hamels, too. In 2010, Lee didn’t pitch for the Phillies, but Halladay and Hamels did. The pitchers on the team other than Halladay and Hamels combined to walk 325 hitters in 997 innings, which is about 2.93 batters per nine innings. That was still, without Halladay, Hamels or Lee (who wasn’t on the team) the best rate of preventing walks in the NL that year. St Louis was second behind the Phils at 2.95. In 2013, the pitchers other than Halladay, Hamels and Lee on the Phillies combined to walk 388 hitters in 931 2/3 innings, which is about 3.75 batters per nine. That rate is worse than the overall rate for any 2013 NL team. By a lot. The Cubs had the worst rate of allowing walks in 2013 — they walked about 3.36 batters per nine innings in 2013.

So, again, in 2010, the Phillie pitchers other than Halladay, Hamels and Lee were better than any other NL team at preventing walks, but by 2013 the Phillie pitchers other than Halladay, Hamels and Lee were worse than any other NL team at preventing walks.

This article points out that the Phillies were miserable at preventing walks in the minors this year, too, and suggests that not walking everyone will be a focus next year.