I feel for Dontrelle Willis. I am a fan of his. A lot for the fact that he has been duped out of roughly 452 wins in his 11 starts with the Reds here in 2011. A lot because of his success in Florida, that high leg kick and all that. And also a lot due to the identification found with the anxiety issues that befell him in 2009-2010. Disclaimers aside, I believe it may be in the best interest of the Reds to try to retain Willis’ services for 2012.
To say that the Reds starting rotation has surprising in both its composition and performance this season is more than just. The current quintet of Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and Willis would have been way down my list of most consistent probable starting rotation. But it has worked okay thus far and been intact for almost exactly 2 months. Of those that I consider locks to perform at a high enough level to stay in the starting rotation for 2012? Cueto, Leake, and Bailey. Arroyo probably will but it’s looking to be less and less of a sure thing and then we come to the last spot…the spot Dontrelle currently resides in.
This spot will come up for grabs between a few players. Namely Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Matt Maloney, maybe even Sam LeCure, and potential middling free agent pitcher X. As Dontrelle has performed this season, I would feel better about that last spot if he were in the running since I would wager a good sum that he could come out on top considering the competitors. While Willis’ 4.21 ERA hasn’t been great in his short stint starting, he has shown some flashes of being proficient. Namely the first few innings during Monday’s game against the Cubs where he was efficient with his pitches, was hitting up to 94 on the gun, and recorded 8 Ks. Only a couple wild walk-filled moments led to giving up 4 ERs over 7 innings.
Willis is not far removed from being a competitive starting pitcher. Reducing the walks (32 as opposed to 51 Ks in 66.1 IP) would go a long way toward improving performance. Reading the tea leaves and looking toward a 2012 with a fairly unchanged rotation, count me in a probable minority of those who think that having Dontrelle in a Reds uniform at the right price in 2012 might not be a bad idea. I’m probably very wrong. What say you?