Billy Wagner did blow seven saves last season and the Mets lost the division by less than seven games. So while it may be tempting to conclude that Wagner, with his 2.30 ERA and 0.89 ratio, his 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and his 1.9 walks per nine innings, is to blame for the difference between the Mets pen and the Phillies pen, I really have trouble believing that was the case. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but in 2008 the Phillies pen was far better than the Mets pen. And not just in the closer slot — the difference between the Phils’ pen and the Mets’ pen wasn’t the difference between Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge or Aaron Heilman and Luis Ayala and Brad Lidge or anyone and Brad Lidge. The difference went much deeper than that and was bigger than any one player on either team.

Here’s what the Phillies bullpen did last season, with and without Lidge:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Pen w/o Lidge 413.6 406 176 158 3.44 1.41

And here’s what the Mets’ pen did, with and without Wagner:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
NYM pen 493.3 487 202 234 4.27 1.40
Wagner 47 32 10 12 2.30 0.89
Pen w/o
Wagner
446.3 455 192 222 4.48 1.45

If you take Lidge and Wagner out of the equation, the Phils pen put up an ERA that was a full run better than the ERA put up by the Mets.

With or without Wagner, you have to take a lot of key players out of the Phillies pen from 2008 before you get to an ERA near what the Mets threw to as a group.

Here it is without Lidge and Madson:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Without Lidge
and Madson
331 327 153 130 3.53 1.45

And without Lidge, Madson and Romero:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Romero 59 41 38 18 2.75 1.34
Without
Lidge, Madson and Romero
272 286 115 112 3.71 1.47

And without Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Romero 59 41 38 18 2.75 1.34
Durbin 87.7 81 35 28 2.87 1.32
Without
Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin
184.3 205 80 84 4.10 1.55

So if you take out the top four guys in the Phillies pen, Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin, the other ten players who pitched in relief for the Phils in 2008 (Eaton, Kendrick, Condrey, Seanez, Happ, Gordon, Eyre, Walrond, Swindle and Carpenter) threw to a 4.10 ERA, better than the 4.27 posted on the season by the Mets bullpen as a group. That group of Phils does have a worse ratio than the Mets pen, 1.55 compared to a 1.40 for the New York pen.

None of that is to suggest that the bullpen wasn’t the difference between the two teams last season. I think it was. It just wasn’t one player. And if you look at the Mets pen from ’08, take out Heilman and Ayala’s numbers and replace them with the American League numbers Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz put up in 2008, things look a lot tighter:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
NYM pen 493.3 487 202 234 4.27 1.40
Heilman 76 75 46 44 5.21 1.59
Ayala 18 23 2 11 5.50 1.39
NYM pen
without Heilman and Ayala
399.3 389 154 179 4.03 1.36
Rodriguez 68.3 54 34 17 2.24 1.29
Putz 46.3 46 28 20 3.88 1.60
Rodriguez/Putz
added
514 489 216 216 3.78 1.37

The Phils ’08 pen still has put up a better ERA and ratio than the mythical creation of the Mets pen. But even without adjusting Rodriguez and Putz’s American League numbers the difference in both cases is pretty small.

Even so, heading into 2009 the Phillies pen is a little better. The thing that’s worrisome from a Phillies perspective is that last year it needed to be a lot better to win the division — the teams scored the same number of runs and the Mets starting pitching was better. There’s a good chance that the Mets starting pitching is going to be better again this year, so I think we better be hoping that the Phils can put some more runs on the board offensively to make up for what will surely be a tightening of the bullpens.

Will Ohman’s agent says they have had positive conversation with the Phils and the lefty would love to pitch in Philadelphia.

Article about Mike Zagurski’s health that also says Eaton will get chances to pitch in spring training.

Charlie Manuel calls Jason Donald “a Biggio kind of guy” in this article.