Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 12/16/11

Dontrelle Willis's numbers against lefties last season were better than either of these men's.

What triggered when you heard the Phillies signed (lefty starter reliever) Dontrelle Willis? Did you start visualizing the herky-jerky, moving parts windup – a trademark that has changed out of necessity over the years – and seeing exactly how it could be so deceptive to a lefthanded hitter?

If utilized properly, Willis has a real shot to succeed as a bullpen arm. His control finally dropped to a manageable level in 2011, and for one more year than that he’s been retiring lefties at will.

Lefthanded batters have hit .178 off Willis since 2010. The deeper you dig, the more evidence you find that Willis doesn’t just have a chance to be elite in left-on-left situations… he already is.

Let’s take a look at the 2011 seasons of Willis, Antonio Bastardo and Jonny Venters against strictly lefthanded batters. Column one is batting average and column two is OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Column three is strikeout percentage (how many plate appearances ended in a strikeout?) and column four is walk percentage (total batters faced divided by plate appearances ending in a walk).

The final three columns are balls thrown, strikes thrown and the percentage of pitches which went for strikes.

BAAOPS
AgainstStrikeout
Pct.Walk Pct.BallsStrikesStrike
Pct.
Bastardo.145
.558
39.2%12.2%
122
21864% Venters
.127.402
41.3%7.6%
122
22965% BAAOPS
AgainstStrikeout
Pct.Walk Pct.BallsStrikesStrike
Pct.
Willis
.127
.369
33.3%
3.3%
65
16071%


Willis had the same opponents’ batting average vs. lefties as Venters, a better opponents’ OPS than either Bastardo or Venters, a significantly lower walk percentage and higher strike percentage.

This isn’t a comparison of Willis to two run-of-the-mill lefty relievers, it’s a side-by-side look at Willis and a pair of southpaws who stifled the league in 2011 and utterly dominated same-handed hitters. It’s a one-year sample, sure, but if the Dontrelle Experiment works at all it will be because he carried his improved command into 2012.

The skill is already there. If the utilization is on point, Willis has a chance to not only reinvent himself but emerge as one of the best at his new craft.

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