What to make of Dontrelle’s day

The final line isn’t at all impressive. Three walks in three innings of work. But the third inning was a clean inning, and against some good hitters in Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera (who fanned), and Magglio Ordonez.

So what do you make of the day? Those 3 walks all came in the second inning, and included walking in a run. So it shows that Willis is still capable of losing the strike zone. The 3rd inning was great showing he’s capable of getting guys out.

Do you chalk it up as progress that he bounced back or just more of the same as Willis still searches for a clean outing?

D-Train gets outing back on track

49 thoughts on “What to make of Dontrelle’s day”

  1. Maybe it says more about Cabrera and Ordonez…

    Seriously though, I look for any positive I can with D-Train. Hopefully it’s something he can build off of, and from the sound of things Rick Knapp has been all about building on the good things.

  2. Today’s performance tells us two things: 1. Willis can get guys out and 2. Willis can’t get guys out. Will the real Willis please stand up. But then we have been waiting a year for that. I’m not counting on Willis. If he figures it out, it’s a plus. I’m guessing management isn’t counting on him either, or they wouldn’t have made the Jackson trade.

  3. More of the same. Rick Ankiel #2. Play this scenario out 50 times this year and I say only once does he become a useful pitcher in 2009. At this point Porcello has a better shot than Dontrelle. If Bondo’s out to start the season, it’s looking like a very, very rough April unless we can win some slug fests.

  4. I read that Clevlen was out of options. What’s the probable outcome for him? And for those whom are fortunate (hmmm…perhaps unfortunate) to see Willis pitch, does his full windup look less pronounced than in previous years?

  5. For those who are remain optimistic about the starting pitching, your position is duly noted. Still, I’m concerned there are too many “ifs” to hash out. Take it from the boss in the dugout, “I’m looking for pitching”.

  6. Walking in a run on 4 pitches? That’s 100% mental. But bouncing back for a 1-2-3 inning against good hitters is definitely progress. Does he bring some new confidence with him the next time out? Will he build on this? That’s the question.

    Here’s the thing with Dontrelle: Everyone know he’s capable of being brilliant. So he gets lots of chances. If you or I showed up at camp with the crap he’s throwing, we’d be lucky to land a AA contract. But he’s now a salvage operation — high ceiling, but certainly has not earned his way back onto the active 25-man roster. Would he tolerate a second demotion to the minors to work through his issues? If he doesn’t start throwing strikes, I see a trip to the IR for “blisters” in his future.

    I think Dontrelle is a tremendous person, and I remember wishing wishing wishing he were a Tiger back when he ruled the NL and we were losing 100 games. But he now has a lot to prove, and he’s going to give us ulcers before it’s all done.

  7. Sure sounds like the same old Willis to me. I really don’t think he is going to be a viable option this season.

  8. One other thought: Nobody wants to see Porcello rushed into duty, or given the pressure of a spot in the rotation out of the gate, do they? But his presence should be putting significant pressure on Robertson, Miner and Willis to step up. That’s not all bad. And if he’s clearly the best arm, I guess they just have to give him a chance. You can’t talk about how a guy has “a chance” to come north and not mean it. And you can’t give a guy a rotation spot just because he’s earning big coin — the money’s already been spent. Now you have to pick the best talent.

    Some guys are ready when they’re young. We have a month left, but the door is open for Porcello, I think.

  9. Scotsw,

    “And you can’t give a guy a rotation spot just because he’s earning big coin — the money’s already been spent. Now you have to pick the best talent.”

    i agree with the quote and most of what you said. we still have to be careful about lumping the question mark pitchers into one basket. Bondo, Miner, Willis and Robertson (and the bullpen ?s) are all different cases. i’m actually not sure why there’s so much talk of the pressure on Miner. yeah, his first “real” action in spring training wasn’t the stuff of legends…but based on last year, why is there all of the sudden a ton of pressure on Miner and not on, lets say, Jackson? well because Jackson had a good showing in spring training…right? well that’s certainly nice, but Miner had a better year in 08, what does that count for?

    in a perfect world you would ignore the contracts and pick the best options, but the phrase, “everyone know he’s capable of being brilliant[,] so he gets lots of chances”, would not have been limited to just Willis last year and its a little unrealistic overall. i’m sure there were stretches of last year where Robertson appeared to be better than Verlander if you looked at numbers and not names, but i didn’t hear any talk of JV losing his spot in the rotation.

    i’m not saying everything will work out for the various “projects” the Tigers have in the pitching staff, but its very early to begin making predictions (one might almost say its silly). spring training for projects is probably different than for the more known quantities, and for pitchers it may be about throwing certain pitches, regardless of normal game considerations and less about getting K’s. although admittedly, Dontrelle was probably not being asked to practice walking in runs…

  10. I’m going back to square one on this issue. All we need is 1 out of 4 pitchers to earn the 5th spot. Over the next 32 days, someone will step up.
    Of course this is assuming that Bondo’s nerve damaged shoulder heals. As Bondo put it, “it could be days, it could be weeks”.

  11. Take Bondo out of the equation and we have Robertson, Willis and Miner vying for 2 spots. Regardless of Leyland’s spin of “looking for pitching”, they shouldn’t be seriously looking at Porcello as a possibility right out of the gate. As far as spring training projects go, I see Willis, Miner, Robertson and Bonderman all as projects of one sort or another. Hopefully 1 (or 2?) step up, but at the same time there is a reasonable chance, based on past (and current performance), that all could fail.

  12. This appears to be more of the same old Willis- when he can find the strike zone, he’s capable of being a dominant pitcher. Unfortunately, he doesn’t find the zone often enough. While you can’t take the second inning away from his last start, he did have a decent first inning and a great third inning. The question doesn’t have to be answered tomorrow though, and there is still plenty of ST left.

    On the issue of Porcello, he has easily been the best Tigers pitcher in ST outside of Verlander, and at what point do you decide that he just too good to put in the minors- even if it means that at first he’s only a five inning pitcher? Same goes for Perry, who has been lights out as well in his two outings.

  13. Willis is getting there. I’m hopeful that he has learned to flip the switch. If he can stay focused, he’ll be lights out again.

  14. Porcello and Perry will not be heading north with the ML club in April. Porcello could possibly get a call for one or two starts in a crunch situation, similar to what they did with Verlander a few years back. Outside of that scenario we won’t see either of them for any extended service until late in the season. The only other posibility is if the Tigers are floundering badly at the mid-point and management decides to give up on ther season and goes into salary dump mode. These guys are the future and won’t be rushed.

  15. I’d prefer Porcello goes to Erie after ST, even if he does keep putting up decent lines. That would mean that some of our guys have bounced back and are competitive. Porcello adds depth, and the Tigers are stronger for it. That said, if Bonderman isn’t ready, the chance Porcello heads north goes way up. That scenario leaves Robertson, Miner, and Willis vying for two spots. What other options are there? T-off Bonine? Lambert?

    I also think this idea of “rushing” pitchers is just about as invalid as the idea that a pitcher in today’s MLB can get overworked. I really do think it’s the biggest bunch of BS. If only Warren Spahn were here to back me up. Bad mechanics are bad mechanics, and no amount of coddling will prevent “natural selection” from acting on those pitchers. Still, pitchers get babied like no other these days, and I think the “rash” of injuries, even during this time of pitcher pampers, probably has had more to do with PEDs than anything else.

    If Porcello is one of the top five at the end of ST, he should come north. I’m not interested in Erie’s performance, I’m interested in the Tigers. I’m also not at all concerned that by Porcello pitching in the big leagues this summer he will somehow be “hurt” by the experience.

  16. The reason major-league baseball clubs are concerned about “rushing” young pitchers, in particular, is because the science supports the notion that young arms (early ’20s) are susceptible to damage. Young guys tend to overthrow in a competitive drive to “make it,” and their arms haven’t been conditioned to throw 150 or 200 innings. AND, these are usually precisely the guys who need major-league caliber coaching to iron out bad mechanics.

    Unlike you and I, these clubs have money on the line — not only in terms of investments in those players, but also in terms of gate revenues. So this isn’t just a fad, it’s a business decision, and it’s sound. For every “Warren Spahn” example, there are dozens or hundreds of guys who hung it up at age 23 because they can’t even hit 80 on the radar gun anymore. You don’t know their names.

    Verlander got overworked last year, and that was part of the reason his performance was down. If you recall, he actually looked really good at the beginning of the year, and got little run support and little luck. By year’s end, he seemed awful ordinary to me.

    As for Willis, he’s the only guy on the roster with 22 wins, and like Verlander he was a ROY. If it weren’t for that history, he’d be looking for a bus ticket.

    The reason there’s pressure on Miner, and not on Jackson, is because according to the coaching staff, Jackson’s spot in the rotation is safe. Seems pretty straight-forward to me.

  17. Chris Y.

    “Bad mechanics are bad mechanics, and no amount of coddling will prevent “natural selection” from acting on those pitchers.”

    mechanics won’t have anything to do with the strain of upping Porcello’s work load per game from the hard 75-pitch cap he was on last year, to what a typical starter will throw. the only was to deal with that is to similarly limit his pitch-counts (i’m assuming 80-90) or risk real mechanical failure. opposing teams might have a significant advantage knowing they’re facing somebody on strict pitch counts.


    would you rather pitcher A or pitcher B?

    pitcher A

    2006 – 4.84 ERA (4.45 FIP); 1.84 K/BB (5.71 K/9)
    2007 – 3.02 ERA (3.93 FIP); 1.55 K/BB (5.70 K/9)
    2008 – 4.27 ERA (4.50 FIP); 1.35 K/BB (4.73 K/9)

    pitcher B

    2006 – 5.45 ERA (4.52 FIP); 1.08 K/BB (6.69 K/9)
    2007 – 5.76 ERA (4.90 FIP); 1.45 K/BB (7.16 K/9)
    2008 – 4.42 ERA (4.88 FIP); 1.40 K/BB (5.30 K/9)

  18. Willis will be OK. I have no real rational reason for that statement, but for some reason I think he’ll win 10-12 games and have a mid 4 ERA. My own personal PECOTA (CiDOTA?) says so.

  19. Sorry guys, I don’t buy it. And I won’t until I see a real, published scientific article describing a direct, significant correlation between arm injury and age-adjusted workload.

    Simply documenting an injury following a heavy workload says nothing. Indirect kinesiological hocus-pocus doesn’t seal the deal either.

    The argument for a relationship between age-based workload and injury seems to be based mostly on hearsay. And, while I hear a lot of talk about the “science” behind arm injury, I have yet to find a single worthwhile study on the subject.

    If such a study exists, I’d love to be enlightened.

  20. I think I’m going to change my screen name to ‘kinesiological hocus pocus’. It has a certain ring to it.

    There’s a pretty good study on fangraphs (I think) about that kinda stuff. If I can find a link I’ll post it. All I can say is remember the Mets’ ‘Generation K’ group. Not pretty.

  21. Chris Y.,

    i’ll admit that my views on this are largely based of “hearsay” and that i haven’t delved into any studies. i’m also not sure if my not having seen any studies yet is due to there being none, or just not having come across any. i do look forward to any scientific approach to this question though.

    in the mean time, i’m going to rely on my logic, limited as it is. also, i might suppose that its unlikely that you could produce a study that says there are no ill-effects to rushing pitching prospects along.

    your Spahn example should be qualified. according to baseball reference, at age 21 he pitched 15 innings and, not only didn’t pitch again until he was 25 (WWII i think), but only 125 innings at that (same as Porcello last year). i would argue that, generally speaking, the body is much stronger and more developed at 25 than at 19…thus more prepared to endure the unnatural stresses of pitching.

    i’m not pointing those things out to discount Spahn, because in the following year he leaped up to 289 innings pitched, with seemingly no ill-effects to his career.

    i don’t know too much about Spahn, or all that much about baseball in the 40s…but if i had to guess, the level of talent was lower back then when taken as a whole, and that comparisons to the modern game and modern pitching aren’t 1:1. that Spahn isn’t representative of pitchers in general, i would also think, goes without saying.

    back to you

  22. Well, like I said, my mind is certainly not made up. My intention was to only point out that the is relationship between arm injury ans workload, age-adjusted or not, is by no means so certain or open-shut, as is often claimed.

    As for Spahn, just pick any other pitcher. I only chose Spahn because he had some very public comments about how the workload issue for modern-day pitchers was idiocy. Let switch to Walter Johnson or some other pitcher that started young, endured a fantastic workload, and pitched, seemingly, forever.

    As for keeping apples to apples: I would assume that modern training facilities and the focus on weight training SHOULD make modern pitchers are more resilient to injury than the weaklings that trotted out during the live-ball era.

    I am also not advocating for a 289 inning workload for Porcello, or even 200. Only that by Pocello pitching 180 innings this year doesn’t mean he is automatically destined for TJ or rotator cuff surgery.

  23. Also, Verlander jumped from 130 innings (minors + 2 starts for Detroit) in 2005 to 186 IP (+22 postseason innings) in 2006 with no apparent ill effect up to this point. That sound you hear is me knocking on wood.

  24. Chris Y.,

    i’ll probably let this rest for a while because i don’t want to give the impression of singling out/picking on anyone. and to be honest, i’ve often wondered myself if pitchers are “coddled”. while i can’t point to the source, one of the things that i’ve heard about past eras of baseball is that pitchers did not give “max effort” on every pitch, knowing that they had to last much longer into a game, unlike the modern game. there’s also much more money involved these days, leading to a more conservative approach with regards to certain “investments” (read: pitchers, specifically young ones).

    from the Tigers point of view, what’s the benefit to rushing Porcello along? does he save a season. well, maybe…the AL central needed an extra game to be decided last year. likely? who knows. he might win you some more games every 5th start, but his strict pitch counts might tax the bullpen too, negating any gain. the Tigers farm system isn’t exactly stocked with pitching talent that could easily replace the loss of Porcello, who at a young age already has a lot of money invested in (relatively speaking).

    so where does that leave the Tigers? i don’t know. there’s an as yet unquantified, but present, risk involved in elevating the physical workload of a 20 year old’s arm from what it was last year to around where it would need to be to justify a spot in the rotation. weighing that against the uncertain benefit that might yield…its not something I think the Tigers need to risk yet. just my thoughts, and i’m always open to better data or arguments.

  25. (dreaded double-post, ugh)

    Chris in D,

    keep in mind Verlander had three more years of arm-strengthening under his belt than Porcello did at the same level. there’s a difference (i don’t know how much exactly) between the average muscle mass of 19-20 year olds and 22-23 year olds. if you’ve been in a fight in college, you know what i’m talking about.

  26. Dre: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. Good point. Damn you and your sound reasoning.

  27. Given that pitchers used to routinely throw an unlimited number of pitches as long as they were effective(120, 150,200,250, it was irrelevant, nobody knows the exact numbers because nobody kept track…because nobody cared) as part of 4 man rotations, whether they were young, old, or in between, didn’t matter, I find it difficult to take many of the ‘studies’ on modern pitcher workload seriously anymore, at least some of their conclussions.

    Seems to me that somewhere along the way they started babying these pitchers, and this philosophy of coddling started at the top(MLB) and slowly worked its way down through the ranks, all the way to the bottom. So pitchers aren’t properly trained anymore. They try to ‘save’ their arms by limiting their number of Innings/pitches, and I’m wondering if, ironically, that this is the real culprit. They no longer put the necessary work in to build up enough stamina, to build up all the muscles and supporting muscles for such workloads. I’ve actually read a couple of articles by ‘experts in the field’ who put together a convincing case that this is what has happened.

    So if Porcello has been coddled, and it sounds as though he as, it could be a risk to ‘rush’ him.

    In any event, the fragility of the modern baseball player is at least mildly disgusting.

    Where have you gone Nolan Ryan?

  28. I wouldn’t mind seeing Leyland use his controversial 2 starters (Willis/Galaragga) in one game strategy all season. Someone like Willis or Porcello could start the game, go 4 or 5 innings, then someone like Minor or Robertson can throw the next 4 or 5 innings. Leyland was onto to something back then, it’s just too bad that so many people hated his ingenious idea.

  29. I am certain most of us agree Porcello would be best left for AA.

    But, in the scenario that Bonderman isn’t ready, where Leyland is filling two spots with two of Willis, Robertson, and Miner, and given their recent history and stellar performances so far in ST, I know this:

    We all would quickly tire of a poundfest every five days. I can just hear the chorus of wailing that would ensue.

    And then what are the Tigers options?

  30. greg,

    i think you made a really good point, regardless of the viability of saving (young) pitchers, its happening and should at least be taken into account. Bondo not being ready for the start of the season is certainly a possibility and Chris is right to bring up the bind that places management. i guess i’m still caught weighing the benefits of Porcello filling in with short-starts that tax the bullpen. you’d hope the the brass is doing all they can coming up with contingency plans.

    hey, the Tigers could always try to acquire Ichiro as their 5th starter…

  31. As a team, if the Tigers think they are going to compete in 2009, they can’t break camp with Porcello in the rotation. Not because he wouldn’t be successful, but because he’d be limited in how much they would use him. He shouldn’t pitch in the bigs if he can’t throw 100-120 pitches every fifth day. Period. If this were a rebuilding year and they were not planning on competing then fine, bring him along a la Bonderman in 2003. Otherwise let him continue to develop at Erie.

  32. 2 dingers for Jeff Larish today. Boom goes the dynamite. 2K’s for Fien in 1 inning. Rincon fans 3 in 2 innings. Miner somehow gives up 3 baserunners in 3 innings, but two of them score. Looks like a pretty good day all around though (not that it means much).

  33. I think the Tigers might be the exception to the rule about starters needing to throw 100+ pitches each game because we’ll have a couple extra starters in the pen that can pitch 4 to 6 innings in a game. We have to play up to our strengths, not our weaknesses. Our weakness is that we don’t have many dependable situational guys that can pitch under pressure. Micro managing won’t work well with this staff. We got 7 starting pitchers that could very well pitch 170+ innings each if they don’t crap out. If we use these guys correctly, are pen and starters should always be fresh.

  34. Just for some perspective, Armando Galarraga averaged 93 pitches per game last year. He threw more than 100 in 15 of 27 starts. Of course his innings were higher than I’d prefer to see Porcello pitch.

  35. Just one thing about the Warren Spahn vs. pitchers of today discussion. Back in the day, pitchers didn’t have to bear down on every batter. Lots more banjo hitters back then. Nowadays, between weight lifting, better conditioning and PED’s, pitchers have to bear down on almost every hitter.

  36. Not yet mentioned in this discussion about rushing Porcello is the effect it could have on him mentally. He’s probably been dominant at virutally every level he’s pitched so far, even last year with limited use of his pitches. But what if he gets into the bigs and the Red Sox and Yankees light him up? He may try to hard to adjust, give up what works, develop bad habits and completely psyche himself out of being an effective big league pitcher. I know he’s got great presence and all for his age, but he’s 20 years old. Have we ever really seen him face adversity?

  37. Since one of the stress variables for a pitcher is the type of pitch he is pitching–(both grip and arm action)–I say you’d have to send Spahn out to develop, say, a splitter to add to his repetoire, and then report back how his arm is doing.

    Not to mention that baseballs back then were softer and therefore easier to grip. And the umpires didn’t keep taking away your nice comfy scuffed ones and replacing them with new hard smooth ones like they do now. (Not to mention they didn’t go as far when hit)

  38. Not trying to be argumentative, but:

    1. From what I understand, Warren Spahn threw a splitter. But, then I never saw him pitch in person. Morris also had an incredible splitter and enjoyed a long career. Of course, he didn’t debut until just before age 22, so…

    Point is, examples are just that. Examples.

    2. By definition, the live ball era (post-1920) followed the beginning of umpire removal of scuffed balls from play and replacement with clean baseballs. This made them a heck of a lot easier to hit.

  39. Thing is, it wasn’t just Warren Spahn who had a high workload, were talking hundreds of pitchers and it wasn’t just one era. Spanning decades all/most pitchers had workloads many times what today’s pitchers have and they didn’t have a care in the world. I’m not buying the argument that they didn’t play/pitch as hard back then. I can’t see it. If anything players were more competitive back then as they all did it for the love of the game, whereas today I see more and more of the ‘Sweet! I’ve got ‘FU’ money, and I’ll play when I feel like it’ mentality . The game was saturated with ‘dirtballs’ (Dustin Pedroia types)whereas today, a more ‘country club’ mentality permeates, at least to some extent, at times.

  40. Oh, pooey. The game’s just changed, that’s all. Guys have been taking PED’s since………..? Tome Seaver said the other day all a guy has to do is go out there now with the mentality to go at least 6 innings. I wonder what would happen if SP had to pitch at least 8 innings and then you could have a closer come in. I wish we had more pitchers who could close out a game or at least get close to it.

  41. baseball fans,

    I will be having a liveblogcast on detroit4lyfe.com tomorrow of the USA/Canada WBC game. Please join me at my site for live up to the date commentary, good times, and general discussion. I hope to see a lot of you out there for what’s going to be a good game hopefully for USA!

  42. I know greg is right. I’m just disagreeing with those who are making excuses for this new “country club” set of pitchers. I used to watch those guys that threw for 9 innings.

  43. Walter Johnson is a great example for debunking workload. The only reason I chose Spahn as an example, and there are many to choose from, is that his career was entirely within the live-ball era. A little over half of Johnson’s career came prior to the transition to clean balls.

    If I could see one pitcher from a bygone era, it would probably be Walter Johnson. Although, on second thought, Satchel Paige might be my choice.

    I especially like some of Cobb’s comments on Johnson:

    “Just speed, raw speed, blinding speed, too much speed (Walter Johnson’s fastball).”

    “His (Walter Johnson) fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed.”

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