• What’chu Talkin’ ’bout Willis?

    Posted by on May 30th, 2010 · Comments (6)

    Shockingly, this will not be a Gary Coleman post (though obit fans should read this one in the Washington Post because man was Coleman’s life depressing).

    Nope its about the rise and fall of another child star – Dontrelle Willis.

    Earlier this week, in a move that most people saw as the return of prospect Max Scherzer to the majors, the Detroit Tigers designated the one-time dominant pitcher and effervescent personality for assignment effectively ending his time in the Motor City.

    Willis burst onto the scene in 2003 – going 14-6 and combing with some Beckett guy and a big Italian with a penchant for debilitating injuries to power the upstart Florida Marlins to the Wild Card and ultimate to the World Series – though I confess I can’t recall what happened when they go there.

    The next season Willis regressed in the won-loss column, and across the board really as his walks and hits were up and strikeouts went down. However in 2005, Willis was a horse – going 22-10 with an ERA on 2.63, striking out three times as many batters as he walked and for all the world looked like a guy set for superstardom.

    The rest of his time in Florida was sub-par – a .500 season and a disaster season respectively – before he was traded to Detroit along with  Miguel Cabrera – essentially as Cabrera’s anchor a la Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett.

    In Detroit, Willis has been a Deepwater Horizon level disaster – after signing a three-year, $29 million extension with Detroit here’s what Dontrelle has thrown on the board:

    22 starts and two relief appearances
    101 innings
    103 hits
    93 walks/68 Ks
    11 HRs
    77 runs, all earned
    For a grand total of a 2-8 record with a 6.86 ERA (66 ERA+ for those of you scoring at home).

    Willis also had an unfortunate arrest while still with the Marlins and has battled, in addition to physical maladies, anxiety disorder while a Tiger.

    This is all a long lead up to two basic points:

    1) Willis is the reason why you can’t be too hard on so-called “failed” pitcher prospects and pitchers. The attrition rate is so high and the pitfalls so numerous that even a guy who looks like they have made it can still crash out. It helps to stockpile and when the opportunity is there, pilfer from someone else’s stockpile.

    2) Should the Yankees, when Willis is finally let go by Detroit, look to bring him in?

    New York has had some success (notably with Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry) of helping troubled players bounce back to a modicum of productivity, and most key, Willis – who won’t turn 29 until next January – throws left handed.

    While success came early (perhaps too early) baseball is filled with guys – particular southpaws – who didn’t put it together until their late-20s/early-30s.

    For example, Randy Johnson was a bucket of injuries, wildness and potential until he turned 29. Closer to Yankeedom – Allie Reynolds was a player during World War II with limited success, until after 30.

    I don’t know if Willis can put it back together. I do know he was fun to watch when he was good, all arms and legs and an electric smile.

    I sure hope he can – and as an added bonus – it might be fun to see him do it as a Yankee.

    Comments on What’chu Talkin’ ’bout Willis?

    1. Raf
      May 31st, 2010 | 9:48 am

      I hope he puts it together, but I’d say Willis is done. He’s doing better than his numbers indicate, but he’s walking as many guys as he’s striking out, and his peripherals aren’t all that great either. Which is a red flag to me considering he has pitched in pitchers parks in FLA & DET.

      If I were him, I’d sign with St. Louis, see what Duncan can do.

    2. 77yankees
      May 31st, 2010 | 9:53 am

      Good God no. More of that NL coming to the AL disease, though as you said Steve, the Tigers didn’t have choice but to take him along with Cabrera, and he’d been mediocre with Florida the year before.

    3. May 31st, 2010 | 9:55 am

      77yankees wrote:

      as you said Steve,

      Sean, not Steve.;-)

    4. K-V-C
      May 31st, 2010 | 11:11 am

      I would get this guy in a heartbeat. Let him go back to his original throwing motion.

    5. Raf
      May 31st, 2010 | 11:14 am

      K-V-C wrote:

      I would get this guy in a heartbeat. Let him go back to his original throwing motion.

      He doesn’t have the flexibility to do so anymore.

    6. 77yankees
      May 31st, 2010 | 11:23 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      77yankees wrote:
      as you said Steve,
      Sean, not Steve.;-)

      LOL – E-3 on me. My apologies, Sean.

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