5. Dontrelle Willis (20.8)
Dontrelle Willis, known affectionately around these parts as “D-Train,” was a six-foot-two, 230 lb. left-handed pitcher from Oakland, CA. Born on January 12th, 1982, Willis was an eighth-round choice of the Chicago Cubs in the 2000 MLB Amateur Entry Draft.
Just prior to the 2002 regular season, the Cubbies traded Willis with Jose Cueto, Ryan Jorgensen, and Julian Tavarez to Florida for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement. Yeah, we won that one, at least.
The following season Willis would make a splash in his major league debut, going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA, making the all-star team and winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Oh, and he was also a World Series Champion. He struck out 142 in 160 2/3 innings with a 1.282 WHIP and a 127 ERA+. Although he wasn’t at his best in the postseason (0-1 record, 8.53 ERA, 1.974 WHIP in 12 2/3 innings), he still did his part in getting the Marlins there in the first place.
2004 would see Willis post a 10-11 record with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.376 WHIP, with 139 K’s in 197 frames for the 83-79 club.
In 2005, Willis started the campaign with consecutive shutouts, defeating the Washington Nationals 9-0 and the Philadelphia Phillies 4-0, striking out 10 and allowing 10 baserunners over the two games. He rebounded from his somewhat substandard 2004 performance to finish second in the NL Cy Young Award vote and play his way onto another All Star team. He went 22-10 in 34 games, leading the majors in victories and with seven complete games and five shutouts. Willis struck out 170 in 236 1/3 innings, with a career-best 1.134 WHIP.
The only thing Willis led the MLB in for the 2006 season was with 19 HBP, but he still went 12-12 with a 3.87 ERA over 34 starts, with a 1.419 WHIP and 160 K’s in 223 1/3 innings as the Marlins went 78-84.
Willis would see his ERA balloon to 5.17 in 2007, when he was 10-15 over a major league-high 35 starts. He allowed the most runs in the NL, with 118, and struck out 146 batters in 205 1/3 innings. Willis had pitched 1022 2/3 innings, the first Marlin to throw over one thousand innings.
After that season, the Marins traded Willis with Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers for Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. Willis went 4-15 over parts of four major league seasons between the Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Cincinnati Reds. He wasn’t done trying though. Willis continued to pitch professionally in the minors until 2014, spending time in the systems of the Baltimore Orioles, the Anaheim Angels, and the San Francisco Giants. He announced his retirement from the Milwaukee Brewers during 2015 Spring Training, but the Marlins got the best of Willis, and we’ll always fondly remember D-Train’s time with Florida.