Can Dontrelle Willis Get Train Back On Track?

Paul Swaney@@PaulSwaneySenior Analyst IMay 13, 2009

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)

In the past five complete MLB seasons, only four men were able to win 20 games or more in one season in the National League.

The first is Roy Oswalt, winning 20 in back-to-back seasons during 2004 and 2005.

Chris Carpenter won 21 games in 2005, while Brandon Webb was the most recent to accomplish the feat last year with a tally of 22.

The fourth member of this club is Dontrelle Willis.

Willis led all of baseball in 2005, winning 22 games for the Florida Marlins. In his five year career with the fish, Willis averaged nearly 14 wins per season. Not the best numbers, but solid enough to establish himself as a reliable starter in the big leagues.

Since being acquired by the Tigers in December 2007, along with Marlins teammate Miguel Cabrera, Willis has won exactly zero games. That's right, the big doughnut.

Willis will make his season debut for Detroit in Minnesota against the Twins on Wednesday. This is a huge start not only for Willis personally, but also for the Tigers and their fans.

The D-Train is only 27-years-old and has a guaranteed $22 million left on his contract. This makes it unlikely the Tigers will be able to move Willis anytime in the near future.

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The optimistic fan will see the potential still exists for Willis to not only be a contributor for a team trying to compete in the balanced AL Central, but to be a star.

Willis' control has not been as good as hoped during his minor league work, but a lack of base-on-balls has never been his forte.

Behind the dramatic leg kick and flailing arms, Willis really has always been a grinder of a pitcher. He comes out, gets into jams, and works out of jams.

With his unspecified anxiety disorder supposedly behind him, Willis will make the most important start of his career, opposite Glen Perkins. His uncertain future as a major league pitcher may very well hang in the balance.