The Curious Case of Dontrelle Willis.

April 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Originally I was planning on doing a 3 part breakdown of Dontrelle’s mechanics, that analysis may still come but watching video and thinking of comments by other baseball fans made me realize that there is an area that needs to be addressed.  That area is mechanics.  Thanks to some help from Mike Rogers over at Bless You Boys, I had some pretty decent clips to watch that actually compared Dontrelle’s mechanics over several years.  Watching those clips however made me mad, because in my mind someone destroyed Dontrelle.

Now I’m sure that whoever decided to alter Dontrelles mechanics did it with the best of intentions.  There is a standard to pitching mechanics, and while no one ever completely follows every step perfectly, Dontrelle seems to just break all the rules.  The standards of mechanics however come second to the result of the pitch.  Up until 2006, Dontrelle was a pretty successful pitcher.  A 22 win season represents that pretty well.  This fact right here automatically makes mechanics last in the list of important pitching aspects.

But still, it was felt necessary to muck around with what made him successful.  Instead of letting him pitch himself into a bad season they decided to try stop a train wreck when maybe there was none to stop.  In doing so they created that guy we want to see gain further success, but cringe when he grips that baseball.  He has gone from ace to back of the rotation starter with an anxiety disorder.  It’s pretty sad really, to see such a great guy fall this far.  The Tigers, however are doing everything right by him though.  The past few years have essentially killed any chance of the old Dontrelle coming back.  When they altered his mechanics they caused him to lose his deception, and that’s all Dontrelle was as a pitcher.  The deception in his delivery was so complicated that I have doubt that Dontrelle can ever be that ace again.  But the Tigers are doing right.  They’re giving Dontrelle the tools necessary to be a serviceable 5th starter.  Have the Tigers seen that yet?  Maybe.  Will they see eventually?  Only time can tell.

I write all of this to remind people that mechanics most aspects of baseball are in a way just silly ideals.  Ideals that give people something to fall back to when nothing else seems to be working.  Often those who follow those ideals as closely as possible are highly successful.  In Dontrelles case, there was success outside of those ideals.  Mechanics become relevant when the pitch fails to record the out.  Instead of being someone we’ll talk about for a long time as a successful big league pitcher, we’ll talk about Dontrelle as the failed result of trying to turn imperfections into perfections.

Dontrelle may not have been perfect.  What he did may have been ugly.  But it worked.  It worked well.  And well, it was kinda taken away from him.

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Entry filed under: Pitching Mechanics. Tags: , , , .

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