Diamondbacks Take the D-Train

In 2003 a rookie left-handed pitcher burst onto the scene and put together a season that would earn him Rookie of the Year honors. Dontrelle Willis started 27 games that season going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 160.2 innings of work.

Diamondbacks will remember that as the year they were robbed. They had their own candidate for Rookie of the Year, one that would put up better numbers in nearly every category. Brandon Webb would make his Arizona debut and go 10-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 180.2 innings of work with 172 strikeouts.

What would add insult to injury was that Webb would not even finish as runner-up to Willis but instead was a distant third nearly 30 percent below Willis’ total. Over the next few years these two pitchers would be compared as two of the dominating new pitchers in the National League.

While Webb would go on and win a Cy Young award and pace his team deep into the playoffs in 2007, Willis would struggle and be traded from Florida to Detroit. The move from the National League to the American League did not go well for Willis and he would struggle over the next two years.

When Florida was shopping Willis there were many Diamondbacks fans, myself included, that dreamed of a duo of Webb and Willis at the top of the rotation. Arizona had not seen such a dominating duo since the days of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

Those dreams never materialized and Willis saw his career go into a serious tail spin ending with him being designated for assignment to make room for none other than former Diamondback Max Scherzer.

Arizona in desperate need for pitching made a deal to bring Willis to the desert to pitch in hopes of resurrecting his once promising career. Diamondbacks fans may yet have an opportunity to see Willis and Webb pitch for the same team but it may take a miracle. Webb has not set foot on a mound since March and Willis’ control problems may make his Arizona tenure short.

It’s hard not to like this deal. The Detroit Tigers are covering all but the league minimum on Willis’ salary. Arizona sent Billy Buckner to the Tigers in exchange. So from an economics perspective Arizona gets Willis for the same money as Buckner for the remainder of 2010.

Given Buckner’s inconsistency over the past two years I would take Willis over Buckner in a heartbeat. They are of similar age but even with his struggles Willis has a higher upside than Buckner. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the change of scenery is all Willis needs to regain his dominating ways.

And in an unrelated note the Diamondbacks drop another game to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This one came on a home run in extra innings given up by Juan Gutierrez continuing his struggles that have haunted him all season. I guess the extra few days off Arizona manager AJ Hinch game him to clear his head just were not enough.


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