Is Dontrelle Willis Worth The Gamble?

With the Tigers recent trade of Nate Robertson, it appears that Dontrelle Willis has earned the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation.  The question for fantasy owners is, now that the Tigers are taking the gamble on him should we do so as well?

He looked impressive early on this spring…  well, maybe not.  The results were there, but the process he got there by certainly was not good.  Over 19.1 spring innings, he’s walked 12 batters.  It’s irrelevant what his ERA is; when you award so many free passes it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

If the walks weren’t enough, throw in two hits batsmen.  I’m sure I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  He has been extremely wild this spring, meaning that positive results are unlikely.

He has yet to allow a home run, a trend that is unlikely to continue.  While he may not give up an extreme number of fly balls, his HR/FB has never been impressive (outside of his monstrous 2005 season):

  • 2006 – 9.2%
  • 2007 – 13.4%
  • 2008 – 12.9%
  • 2009 – 11.8%

Forget about this spring for a second.  He was solid in his debut season (3.30) of 2003.  He was stellar in 2005 (2.63 ERA).  He was average in 2006 (3.87).  Is that really enough to base anything on?  Truth be told, the hype surrounding Willis is more on that one season above all else.

As it is he has a career ERA of 4.02 and WHIP of 1.40.  You take 2005 out of the equation and his ERA goes to 4.41 and WHIP to 1.47.  Not a pitcher you’d be looking to take a flyer on, now is it?

Under the impression that he could be a source of cheap strikeouts?  His career strikeout rate is just 6.60, right along the lines of the 6.13 he’s posted this spring.  He’s certainly not going to contribute there either.

So, let’s get this straight:

  • He has just one big season to hang his hat on
  • He has little upside in the strikeout department
  • He has erratic control, at best
  • His spring results are based more off of luck then skill

His luck has already begun to run out, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks, striking out 3, over 4.1 innings on Tuesday against the Orioles.  The unfortunate truth is that his struggles could easily continue into the season.  Don’t be fooled and take the gamble on the name alone.  Outside of AL-only and the absolute deepest of formats, he’s not worth touching.

What are your thoughts?  Is Willis someone you’d consider stashing away?  If so, why?

If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here.

For some 2010 projections, click here.  Among those we’ve already covered include:


  1. yo says:

    Hey Eric,
    Can you do a piece on whether Fausto Carmona is for real?

  2. Rotoprofessor says:

    Absolutely….expect it to go up in the next few days

  3. Keith says:

    I did draft Willis… but it was for my worst team possible league. I have a couple of Tigers. I took Inge round 1 (high K low contact), I drafted Everett (love those sub .250 batters) and Willis is my ace pitcher. Well him, Sowers and Zach Duke. Go team!

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