Originally written on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 12/13/11

From 2007-10, J.C. Romero was a stressful but successful reliever for the Phillies, posting a 2.60 ERA in 148 2/3 innings. For several years during that stretch Romero was, quantitatively, the best lefty specialist in baseball.

For the Dontrelle Willis experiment to work, he must not face righties.

During the four-year span lefties hit just .183 with a .294 on-base percentage and .268 slugging percentage off Romero. That .562 OPS from lefties meant that Romero turned all same-handed hitters into the 2011 version of Miguel Tejada or Brandon Inge. Righties fared much better, hitting .229/.399/.361. If lefties were Tejada or Inge, righties were to Romero the equivalent of Yunel Escobar or B.J. Upton.

So it made no sense that in 2011 Romero faced 70 righties to just 46 lefties. The righties destroyed Romero, going 19 for 59 with eight doubles, a homer and ten walks to just five strikeouts. Lefties, of course, struggled, going 9 for 39 (all singles) with five walks and 14 strikeouts.

The way Romero was used in 2011 was a mistake. Charlie Manuel cannot make that mistake with Dontrelle Willis.

Since 2009, the league has hit .282 with a .395 on-base percentage against the wild Willis. But those numbers are skewed because of how dreadful Willis is against righthanded batters.

Willis has walked 40 more righthanded batters than he has struck out since 2009… and has struck out 40 more lefties than he’s walked.

For Willis to adapt to a role out of the ‘pen, he cannot face righties. It’s easy to say now, but if Manuel calls upon Willis in the eighth inning of a game to face a lefthanded batter, the opposing manager could always counter with a righty pinch-hitter. In that scenario, Willis must be taken out. It burns an extra reliever, sure, but Willis against a righty has historically been a coin flip. You need better odds than that late in the game.

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