The Phils face arguably the best National League starter tonight in left-hander Dontrelle Willis, as the team opens the first to two critical road series at Florida and Atlanta.
"D-Train," 7-1 1.45 ERA, is biggest reason why the Marlins are sitting atop the NL East. For his career, he’s a notoriously fast starter, never losing in April (8-0, 1.91 ERA), with a 23-7, 2.86 ERA career record prior to the All-Star break.
He’s terrorized the Phillies over his career, holdling hitters to a .203 BA, including Jim Thome, 3-21 with 10 strikeouts. Chase Utley has actually never faced Willis, while his platoon partner Placido Polanco has, with little success however, 5-28 lifetime, with one of those hits a home run.
Following up my last post, I said it’s time to start using Chase Utley more against LHP, and though I didn’t write it, from a fan's perspective, I joined the vocal majority in my disappointment he didn’t start Saturday’s game against left-hander Erik Bedard. While Polanco is a better bet to hit LHP, Utley must be thrown into the pool at some point if the Phils stay true to their word that he is the future of second base.
Despite Willis’ early dominance, I think tonight’s a good night to start Utley, though every logical instict tells me it's not.
I did a little research. Last year, following his first defeat – a 7-2 loss to Atlanta – Willis was shelled his next start by San Francisco, going just one inning and giving up six ER. If history tells us anything, it’s that Willis will eventually degenerate. Let’s hope tonight’s the first night of his demise.
The hypocrisy of the platoon
What frustrates some is the platoon game isn’t extended beyond second base. It’s a fair argument, though certain factors like experience play into the equation.
For instance, if the Phils go purely on matchups tonight, it would be hypocritical for Manuel to start Thome. They’d do better starting switch-hitting Tomas Perez at first, 3-12 lifetime with a homer and two doubles against Willis. Others with marginal success against him include Pat Burrell (7-22, 1 2B), Bobby Abreu (7-23, 2 2B) and Endy Chavez (3-10, 1 2B).