Last week I was talking to my dad about Dontrelle Willis’ ongoing problems, and what the Tigers are going through with him. (How would you feel if we signed a guy to a 3 year, $20M+ contract and he proceeded to immediately suck worse than anyone and have to be sent down to A ball? And then the next year give up more runs than innings pitched in spring training, while making constant and drastic changes to his mechanics? Not good, right?)
But it was also in the context of Bert Blyleven’s stint as the pitching coach for the Netherlands, and what a great job he did with their young pitchers. Everyone really lauded the work he did, shaping up the pitchers, simplifying and solidifying their mechanics, and teaching them to step up to the moment and get outs when they need to.
So, inevitably, the discussion turned to the possibility of the Tigers cutting their losses with Dontrelle and just releasing him, followed by the Twins picking him up, stashing him in the minors, and switching Bert from TV-analyst to some sort of special minor league pitching consultant whose first responsibility is to fix Dontrelle Willis, followed by helping out with all the rest of our young pitchers. (He clearly has the skills for the latter, and the former has such huge upside that it’s got to be worth some kind of shot, right?)
Well, Olney takes a look at the Dontrelle situation today.
Internally, the Tigers have talked about breaking their camp with the best group of pitchers possible — and if Dontrelle Willis isn’t among the best, then the Tigers will have to determine another course of action. Willis has pitched 8 1/3 innings and allowed 17 hits, seven walks and 15 runs (12 earned), and rival talent evaluators believe Detroit will take one of two courses of action unless Willis shows dramatic improvement over the last two weeks of camp.That doesn’t exactly sound promising. I mean, the prospects of the Tigers releasing him are somewhat promising in that the Twins could pick up a potentially valuable arm for free — but it’s interesting that nobody has ever had problems like this and then proceeded to come back from them and be their former self.
Willis’ struggles led to an interesting discussion among a couple of scouts this spring: How many pitchers have come back from the kind of acute control problems that Willis experienced last year, when he was missing his target by feet, rather than inches?
- Go about the business of getting Willis to the minors, where he can get in more work.
- Release him.
The scout couldn’t come up with a single example of somebody who regressed and then made it all the way back.
If it’s true that once-you’re-done-you’re-done, obviously it wouldn’t be worth wasting time on Willis. What are your thoughts? Do you think Dontrelle can fix this? Do you think it’s possible for someone who develops these kinds of mechanical problems to fix them? What are the implications of realizing that it’s not possible for someone to rebound from major issues on player evaluation? (In other words, does it lend more fuel to the argument that perhaps the Twins shouldn’t try “low risk” reclamation projects like Ponson, Ortiz, et cetera?)2 comments