Congratulations to Dontrelle Willis, who got his 20th win of the season in a crucial game against the Washington Nationals. It was the first 20th win by a pitcher in a Marlins uniform – ever. It was also the 13th time an African-American pitcher has won 20 games, the last to accomplish the feat was Dave Stewart (1994) who pitched nearby to Dontrelle’s hometown.
In fact, a book is scheduled to be released about the “12 Black Aces”, but now it seems there will have to be a revision. There is a 13th one that just arrived and he may prove to be just as great.
It has been an impressive year where Dontrelle has been able to not only excel and grow as a pitcher, but also has been the most consistent starter on the staff and has also become the anchor of the staff. He started off the second half with a bit of a slump, but quickly got it together and now stands atop 20 wins. And still at only the ripe old age of 23.
This is the mark of many days of hard work. Willis showed up early at spring training with Juan Pierre and started working hard on his conditioning, losing some weight and working on his mechanics with pitching coach Mark Wiley. But this has been the process of a couple of years in the making. Dontrelle was pushed by then-pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal in 2004 to work on his delivery and smooth out the mechanics. The high leg kick was tweaked in order to give Willis more balance and better body control. Also, his wind up from the stretch had to be shortened in order to be more effective in holding runners on.
This all lead to some early struggles for Willis in 2004 but he was able to perservere this season and put up a Cy Young worthy season with a 20-8 record and a 2.52 ERA.
Congratulations, once again Dontrelle. Just as impressive as the 20 win season is is how you have handled yourself all along. No one has been more humble and more deserving and such a joy to watch as the “D Train” has been in motion.