Get Ready To Be Derailed: Detroit Tigers Trade The D-Train To Arizona

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst IJune 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 21:  Dontrelle Willis #21 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning during the interleague game at Dodger Stadium on May 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks continued their starting pitcher trading frenzy on Tuesday, with starter Dontrelle Willis becoming the newest former Tigers pitcher to join the Diamondbacks and Billy Buckner becoming the latest former D'Back prospect to join the Tigers.

Thus ends the sad tale of Dontrelle Willis, Detroit Tiger.  During his time in Detroit, Willis went just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA in three seasons while battling injuries and confidence issues. 

Unfortunately, Willis will be joining what has quietly been the most punishing environment for pitchers in baseball this season.  Trying to fix the Diamondbacks pitching problems with Willis is like trying to put out a fire by pooring gasoline on it.

To be sure, there were almost certainly teams out there with whom Dontrelle could have made a fresh start and perhaps salvaged his career.  It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine him succeeding in St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco,  but Arizona is no place for a fragile pitcher.

This is going to be ugly, and I mean Elephant Man ugly.

Frankly, it's difficult to see how the Diamondbacks looked at their pitching staff's struggles and determined that what they needed was Dontrelle Willis.

This is a staff that features Dan Haren, who last season finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting and led the league in WHIP.  This season he leads the league in hits allowed, the thing that last season he was the best at.

The D'Backs also have Edwin Jackson, who last season with the Tigers went to the All Star game and finished with a 3.62 ERA (127 ERA+).  This season, he leads the league in earned runs allowed and is sixth in the league in hits allowed.

Closer Chad Qualls, who last year had a 3.63 ERA (127 ERA+) and 24 saves in 52.0 innings while allowing 9.2 hits per nine innings, currently has a 7.64 ERA (60 ERA+) with 15.8 hits allowed per nine innings.

In essence, this is a team for whom good pitchers are currently performing poorly. 

Perhaps the problem isn't so much that the Diamondbacks need struggling, head-case pitchers, but rather that the Diamondbacks defense isn't giving its pitchers the support they need to succeed.

Dontrelle Willis, meanwhile, has been a hit-machine throughout his major league career, giving up over a hit per inning lifetime and this season giving up 10.0 hits per nine innings. 

Willis doesn't exactly help himself either.  He walks a ton of guys, so the batters who don't get on by getting base-hits will likely be getting on by being walked.

Arizona fans should expect to see Dontrelle Willis light up early and often. Expect a WHIP in the 1.900 range, well over 10.0 hits allowed per nine innings, and perhaps even a spike in homeruns allowed.

At the same time, Rodrigo Lopez is currently experiencing a renaissance with the Diamondbacks, so maybe I'm completely off-base here.

I don't think I am.