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Effectively Wild: Dontrelle Willis

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27 :  Pitcher Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers pitches in relief against the Toronto Blue Jays February 27, 2009 at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Dave HamptonCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2009

Effectively wild, anyone familiar with the term?

It's a slang for a pitcher whose stuff is all over the place, yet effectively so to the point that he is able to get outs.

It happens when the batters have no idea what to expect in the batter's box. They step to the plate thinking that they might get walked, beaned, homer or strikeout, anything really, because the pitcher is so unpredictable.

Effectively wild may be the best we can hope for out of Dontrelle Willis this season. He continues to flounder in spring training, and his walk total is sickening. I watched him get battered around by the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.

His mechanics are a mess.

"Fixing" Dontrelle Willis may be the toughest task Rick Knapp will ever face as a major league pitching coach, and this is his first tour of duty. The high leg kick, the slide step, a normal leg kick, Willis seems to rotate through all of them. In no way will that even out his problems.

Good pitching is about consistency. Good pitching is about repeatability, it is almost a science in that regard.

Sound mechanics repeated over and over again are the building blocks of a pitcher who can pound the strike zone and nibble at the corners. To fix Dontrelle Willis, Knapp needs him to pick a consistent delivery and stick with it, even if it is the quirky high leg kick.

The next step is in Willis' head. I think most of the trouble for Willis lies right between his ears. He is thinking too much.

The best strategy right now for Willis would be to get on the mound with the ball, kick and fire, then do it again and again.

Don't think, Dontrelle, just do. Just throw the ball and not worry about the consequences, as they will take care of themselves.

Undoubtedly he would get kicked around for a while in the initial stages. How is that any different from what we are seeing now?

Fixing Dontrelle Willis will be no quick task. The sand is running out of the glass for spring training, and I sincerely doubt he can right the ship by then.

However, spring training remains, best not to squander that time.

Fixing Dontrelle Willis will be no easy task. The coaching staff and fans need to have their patience with him. He will cash his checks on his $29 million contract regardless.

Tiger Nation would do itself a favor to make this task as easy for Willis as possible, and restrain themselves from booing him, even though he will make himself a ripe target.

As I said before, though, Willis getting himself together will take some time. Perhaps the best we can hope for in 2009 is for him to be effectively wild.

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