UPDATE: The Diamondbacks have confirmed their interest in Willis, according to Gilbert.
“We are at least considering him,” D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes
8:55 PM: According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks have had discussions with the Tigers about acquiring Dontrelle Willis.
Willis, 28, was designated for assignment by the Tigers on Sunday after posting a 4.98 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and a 33/29 K/BB ratio over his first nine appearances (eight starts) this season. The enigmatic left-hander was just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA during his disappointing tenure in Detroit, averaging a disturbing 8.2 BB/9 over 101 innings.
According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Willis’ agent Matt Sosnick said that Arizona is one of the places his client “would rather play.” In fact, Willis and his wife were already in the process of buying a home in the Phoenix area. More broadly, Sosnick said “Out West in the National League would be his
choice.” He’s not the first pitcher to look out west for revitalization.
The Tigers have a little over a week to work something out, but whether they decide to release him, trade him or put him on waivers, they’ll be responsible for virtually all of his $12 million contract for this season.
As for the Diamondbacks, they have apparently seen enough of Billy Buckner that they feel it’s worth sending a marginal prospect the Tigers’ way to try to catch lightning in a bottle here. I don’t have much optimism that he can turn things around in the desert, but maybe his bat (eight career home runs) can keep them in a few games.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.