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NL East: D-Train Derailed
It's always a fun exercise to look back at one's fantasy draft and see how one did six months later -- as I did earlier this week with my effort with our impolitely mocked SI mock draft. Prince in the 10th round, Griffey in the 21st? Big money! (That's 74 homers and counting from those two). Josh Barfield in the 11th, Anibal Sanchez in the 16th, Jorge Cantu in the 17th and Mark Prior in the 20th? Whammy.
The one selection that really burns me, however, is the fellow I chose in the eighth round: Dontrelle Willis. At the time I wrote, "I considered Scott Kazmir, but D-Train's just more fun -- and far less injury-prone. Also, for the little it's worth, he excels in odd-numbered years (36-16 and 2.90 ERA in '03 and '05, 22-23 and 3.94 ERA in '04 and '06)." Well, perhaps I should have gone for a little less fun, a little less meaningless statistical modeling, and a little more Kazmir. Because -- and the numbers are pretty shocking -- Dontrelle Willis has this year been one of the worst pitchers in baseball.
This is a guy whom as recently as the '06 trading deadline I felt the Mets should have mortgaged the future (in the form of prospects Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey) to acquire. And who knows -- had New York had last year's version of Willis (3.87 ERA) on board, perhaps they would have had enough pitching to get them past the not-exactly-mighty 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. We haven't been hearing much about his struggles, because we don't hear about much at all that happens baseball-wise in South Florida, but here are Willis' 2007 stats:
By any metric -- have you see the dude's ERA+? Egads! -- Willis has had an unspeakably awful year. What happened? Willis insists he's healthy ("I'm fine ... it's life," is all he's had to say on that subject), but has inexplicably had trouble controlling his fastball this year. Jimmy Rollins, a boyhood acquaintance of Willis from their days in Oakland, believes he's simply depressed from years of toil in Miami: "Just going out with nothing to play for ... you lose your zip and some of your concentration," said J-Roll -- who has expressed his desire to see Willis in Philly next season -- to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The worst-ase scenario for Willis is that the league has finally figured out that high leg kick delivery, much in the way they eventually figured out Hideo Nomo's twisting style and many others with funky approaches. However, I don't think that's the case -- Willis' stuff is too good for that, and he's had too many years of success. I'm inclined to believe Rollins' explanation -- for an energetic guy like Willis, who thrives on buzz and excitement, five years in Dolphin Stadium must be soul-deadening indeed.
It may well take a change of scenery -- to Philly or elsewhere -- for the D-Train to once again start chugging along.
Labels: NL East
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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