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Nice ESPN article on D-Willie


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ESPN the mag link


By Buster Olney

ESPN The Magazine


At the apex of Dontrelle Willis' delivery, his right foot is nose high, his right knee just below his chin. His chest and head are twisted so that he is facing right field, his eyes aimed upward. His intention is to throw the ball in almost the complete opposite direction, where he is not looking.


Only at the finish does Dontrelle Willis begin to approach an orthodox motion.


The hitter cannot see the ball at this instant; the ball is only a part of the hitter's imagination. It is hidden, behind Willis' shoulder, behind his head, inside of his glove, and the hitter won't see the ball until Willis' delivery begins to unravel -- the feet, the legs, the hands and the glove, all exploding at the hitter. Then the hitter finally sees the ball. By then, it's almost too late to do anything about it. "You see it a couple of feet later" than with other pitchers, said Vance Wilson, the Mets' catcher.


"It's something that causes good deception," Willis said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I've been doing it for years. When I tried it the other way" -- the normal way -- "it didn't feel right."


Wilson's at-bats against Willis in Florida on Monday were probably the best among the Mets' batters, and Wilson was hitless. Ty Wigginton had the only hit against the Marlins' rookie -- a ground single through the left side of the infield -- and the 21-year-old Willis struck out eight and walked one in throwing a complete game to beat Tom Glavine.


"He's an original," Florida pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said. "There's no way you teach that delivery to anybody. The only way someone comes up with that delivery is if they teach themselves."


No one else in the majors pitches like Dontrelle Willis. The next time the Mets see anyone who throws like him will be the next time Willis faces the Mets, and this will always be his advantage. When hitters and hitting coaches discuss and prepare for pitchers before each game, they speak in general code they all understand. A pitcher might be described as a sinker-slider guy, and the hitters will nod knowingly. A team might face a half-dozen right-handed sinker-slider pitchers in a given week, or a handful of soft-tossing left-handers with big breaking balls, or a few right-handed pitchers who mix fastballs and splitters.


But Willis is left-handed, he's got a funky delivery, and he throws hard. Willis' fastball was clocked consistently at 92-93 mph Monday -- sometimes reaching 95 mph, as Willis tried finishing off hitters early in the game -- and with a good sense of how to change speeds, his changeup and slider drifting at 82-83 mph.


Pitch count?

A breakdown of Dontrelle Willis' outing against the Mets on Monday:


Total pitches: 109

Total strikes: 75

Fouls: 20

Swing and miss: 12

Called strikes: 23

Balls put in play: 20

3-ball counts: 4 of 29 hitters

1st pitch strikes: 20 of 29 hitters

Strikeouts swinging: 6

Strikeouts looking: 2


Almost every pitch Willis threw early in the ball-strike counts was in the lowest quadrant of the strike zone, mid-thigh or below. In those very rare moments when the Mets had well-timed swings against Willis, they did not have much to swing at -- fastballs shin high, changeups nicking the corner low and outside. The Mets were clearly uncomfortable with Willis' delivery, swinging late, peeling fouls off to the right side. His command was exceptional: Willis threw strikes on 75 of 109 pitches, and threw strikes with his first pitch against 20 of 29 batters. Willis worked himself into hitters' counts -- two balls and no strikes or 3-1 or 3-0, against only three of 29 hitters: Joe McEwing in the second inning, Jason Phillips in the fourth inning and Jeromy Burnitz in the eighth. Willis required 25 pitches in the first inning, and only 84 pitches over the next eight innings.


When Willis was a child and he stayed at his grandparents' home, he would throw a tennis ball at the front steps, which were framed by railing on each side. If Willis threw the ball precisely, he could make the ball bounce back directly back to him, and he did this for hours, as his grandfather sat and watched. Sometimes his grandfather would sit on the right side of the steps, sometimes on the left side. "Like a right-handed or a left-handed batter," Willis said.


Wilson said, "His windup obviously is a little tricky, but his fastball was straight and once you picked up the ball, you could see it pretty well. But he was hitting inside and out with his fastball, and he wasn't putting pitches out over the middle of the plate." "The kid just throws strikes," said Rosenthal. It will always be his delivery that distinguishes Willis, however. He raises his hands, turns his body so that his back is almost to the hitter, and draws up his right knee toward his chin -- think El Duque, Orlando Hernandez -- and looks toward right field. Rosenthal, who has known Willis since he came to the Marlins in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, once was standing behind the mound while Willis threw, and Willis asked him to move because he was in his line of vision.


Once Willis begins moving forward in his delivery, he is centered over the mound, balanced, and his finishing mechanics resemble those of other successful pitchers. "When you have an original delivery, it might take some time for people to try to adjust to that," said Rosenthal.


Wilson said he believes hitters will make adjustments. "Coming in, after watching the video, I thought it was going to be a lot tougher to pick up the ball," said Wilson. "Not taking anything away from him, you can see the ball, but it's a matter of getting at-bats against him."


Rosenthal isn't sure the familiarity will come. Willis' first strong outing came against the Cincinnati Reds on May 25, when he pitched eight scoreless innings, striking out nine. Willis' very next start was against the Reds, and he allowed one run over seven innings, striking out eight. In his last five starts, Willis has surrendered just 25 hits and nine walks in 37 2/3 innings, striking out 34. There is more to come, apparently.

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I grew up in the sametown as Dontrelle.. I still see him around when he's here... His nickname is TrelleMix... like Trail Mix the snack.. i dont know how it started but tell the Fish Fans to call him that... He was a great athlete.. especially in baseball and basketball.. i hated playing against him in Basketball.. we went to rival high schools...


Im proud of what he's doing for the Fish... but i hope Athletic one day.... Sorry Fishes...

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