The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Are you kidding me?

Dontrelle Willis had his second start of the year for the Marlins tonight in San Juan against the Expos. In his first start, Dontrelle shut out the Expos for 7 2/3 innings while also going 3 for 3 at the plate and scoring one run. Willis had a highlight reel quality head first dive into home plate to score his run and another head first dive nearly into the dugout in an attempt to catch a foul ball.

Few, if any of us, saw tonight's appearance live - in person or on television - because the Marlins aren't broadcasting this series from San Juan (apparently expenses are high there, or so the rumor goes). But it sounds as if we missed a heck of a ball game. The Marlins won tonight 9 - 0, improving their record this season to 7 - 1. In addition, the Fish have shut out the Expos for 30 consecutive innings. When I heard this in the car tonight (on my way home from the Heat game), I figured that Dontrelle must have pitched another gem. I was really happy to hear this because I was worried that Dontrelle could pitch himself out of the rotation by the All-Star break, particularly if A.J. Burnett is able to return from Tommy John surgery earlier rather than later. However, the next thing that I heard was that Willis was removed from the game after only 5 innings. Here's what I thought the possibilities were:

1 - Willis was injured. Obviously not a pleasant thought.
2 - Jack McKeon removed Willis from the game in an act somewhat like a Little League mercy rule since it was becoming apparent that the Expos couldn't hit the D-Train.

It turns out that it was probably something else. Willis walked four batters in five innings (hopefully not a sign that the wildness is back) and threw 94 pitches. Given that Willis through nearly 120 pitches in his first start last week and that this game was well in hand after five, I'm glad to hear that McKeon took Willis out.

Well, I was until I realized that Willis was 3-for-3 at the plate tonight with a single, a double, and a 3-run home run. So after just four innings (Willis was pinch hit for in the 5th), Dontrelle was three-fourths of the way to the cycle. I'm not sure if a pitcher has ever hit for the cycle, but I'm sure it's been done, but probably not in a long time (maybe someone would be kind enough to look it up on Retrosheet and email me with what they find).

This performance at the plate comes on the heels of his 3-for-3 performance in his first start. After two games, yes - I know, it's only two games - Dontrelle is 6-for-6 at the plate with two extra base hits, three runs scored and three RBI. For those of you who are SABR-metrically inclined that's 1.000/1.000/1.667. For those of you who aren't so SABR-metrically inclined, that means Dontrelle has a batting average and an on base percentage of 1.000 (both perfect), and an slugging percentage of 1.667 (better than anything Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth ever put up over the course of a season). This adds up to an OPS (on base + slugging) of 2.667 (see SLG comment). Yes, I know they're not really "percentages" but if you've read this far, you probably know that's how they're referred to.

The only real knock on Dontrelle so far is that he doesn't walk when he's at the plate and that he walks too many when he's on the mound. Still, Dontrelle Willis is two-for-two this year in delivering his trademark fun and excitement to baseball fans.


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