The Tigers have signed Dontrelle Willis to a 3-year, $29-million extension according to the Free Press. This means Detroit's probable Big 3 of Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Willis all are locked up through at least 2010.
Signing Willis, now that he's in the fold, was probably a good move and the Tigers probably got to pay less than market value because of Willis' poor 2007 season. The Mariners signed Carlos Silva at about $11 million per year, from what I've seen. Silva, 28, is 55-46 with a 4.31 ERA and has never had a Cy Young-type season like Willis.
Here are reasons to either be concerned Willis might not regain his 2005 form, or to believe he can get straightened out and improve.
First, is his control. In 2005, he walked 2.09/9 IP. In 2006, it was 3.34 and in 2007 it was 3.81. Actually, his 2005 season seems to be the anomaly; he was 3.25 in 2003 and 2.79 in 2004. In 2005, about 65% of his pitches were strikes; in 2007, it was 60%.
Second is batting average against. In 2005, it was .242, which is his best. With the exception of .246 in 2003, the numbers aren't great -- .274 in 2004, .271 in 2006 and .294 last season. The BABIPs aren't anything very unusual, although the .329 last season is a bit high. Still, even if you drop his BAA by 20 points it's right back in that .270-.275 range, which to me just seems high for someone that's supposed to be a dominant lefty. That's Randy Wolf territory -- after surgery. Prior to his arm woes, Wolf held batters to .246, .225, .238 during a 3-year span. Cole Hamels is in the .240 range. Tom Glavine was at .266 and .279 -- after turning 40.
Another thing about 2005, Willis gave up only 11 HR in 236 IP. This ridiculously low. His 4.9 HR/FB was about half of what's normal. His ERA would jump from 2.63 to over 3 if you figured on 11 more HR that year. Last season, Willis gave up 29 HR in 205 IP, which is high.
I'm probably going to eat all these words, but it just seems to me that Willis' 2005 season was the anomoly, not last year. And I'm still not convinced that the Tigers couldn't have done just as well with Andrew Miller or Dallas Trahern .