The recent announcement that the Chicago Cubs are giving Dontrelle Willis a shot at making the major leagues again made numerous baseball fans happy. He has brought a level of enthusiasm to a sports world in need of athletes who genuinely give their all for their craft. Dontrelle continues to do this despite being overworked at a young age resulting in ongoing arm troubles and ineffectiveness. (He had four consecutive seasons of between 197-236 IP before he reached age 25.1)
Despite pitching just 6-1/3 innings at AAA last year, the Cubs are hoping this effervescent lefty can regain some of the skills which made him such a successful hurler with the Marlins as recent as 2006.1 I want to join the many who hope he returns in a big way. His 1-6 record with a 5.00 ERA for the Reds in 2011 is misleading. His performances should have rewarded him wins long before the one he was credited with in his last start of the year.
Dontrelle’s Bat Stats
But even if he doesn’t pitch well, the Cubs would be wise to recall his ability to hit. He has a major league average of .244 with thirteen doubles, six triples, nine homers and 39 RBI in 389 at bats.1 More noticeably, in his ’11 campaign with Cincinnati, he would have been the first pitcher since the 1920s to have hit .400 with at least 30 at bats had he not made an out in his last plate appearance.2
Why He Should Be Given a Shot as an Outfielder, too
In my article of November 28, I expanded on a radio fan’s call-in suggestion that righthander Mike Leake be given consideration as an outfielder because of his hitting ability. In the course of my discussion, I mentioned that Dontrelle Willis should consider a comeback in this way. He has what it takes to be successful as a position player: proven ability to hit, speed (his most recent triple was in ’11), general athleticism (just watch him play), a strong arm obviously and he’ll be only 31 years old in a few days.
Spring training begins in about six weeks. Let’s see if Dontrelle Willis becomes one of the “feel good stories” of 2013!
1 – www.mlb.com
2 – Reds television announcers, late September 2011