Dontrelle Willis: D-Willis Not D-Railed in Detroit

josh millarSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2008

A few weeks back struggling Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis was sent to the minors after having control problems. This the beginning of the end for Willis right? Not so fast, anyone heard of Roy Halladay?

During the 2000 season, Halladay sported a 10.64 ERA in 19 games, 13 of which he started. At the beginning of the 2001 season, Halladay was optioned to Class A Dunedin Blue Jays to rebuild his delivery.

Halladay like Willis was a power pitcher who relied on his fastball. During his minor league stint Dunedin pitching coach Mel Queen altered his delivery.

Instead of throwing over the top, he went to more of a three-quarters sidearm delivery (the middle point between throwing overhand and sidearm). He went from a being a pitcher who relied on his fastball to one who delivers everything down, regardless of the type of pitch he throws.

The adjustments were proven to be successful. After a month and a half, he was promoted to class AA Tennessee, and then, a month later, to class AAA Syracuse.

By mid-season, he was back in the Jays’ rotation. He posted a 5–3 record with a 3.19 ERA for the Jays in 16 starts in 2001 and went on to win a Cy Young award in 2003, his first of two.

The same changes must take place with Willis. Willis’ delivery is inconsistent mainly because of his huge tornado style leg kick at the top of his delivery.

This causes Willis to fall of to the right side slightly on some occasions altering his arm angle or slot in baseball terms. The inconsistency in the slot makes him pitch up in the zone and some of his pitches are flat.

For pitchers with poor control the slot must remain consistent. As his control improves perhaps Willis can try different slots. Tim Hudson has had some success pitching sidearm occasionally.

However the best at changing slots was David Cone who as a result could have his pitches do about 19 different things.

Willis’ “stuff” is too good to be written off yet.

Let’s hope the D-Train gets back on D-Track.