Giants sign Dontrelle Willis

It’s good to be rational. It’s good to say, "I don’t like (move or transaction) because on-base percentage tells me so." It’s the starting point of a good argument, at least.

Sometimes it’s good to be irrational. When the Giants had a broken ‘n’ busted infielder and traded him for a broken ‘n’ busted outfielder, it made sense at the time. The Giants needed another outfielder, and it’s always easier to hide a fifth or sixth outfielder and hope . That was the rational thought, at least. The irrational -- yet ultimately correct -- thought was that ghoulish man-buzzard Steve Finley should never be allowed to desecrate a Giants uniform. Six hundred gallons of bleach later, and that stink still won’t get out of the clubhouse. Smells like burning hair and week-old Arby’s.

So it’s possible to like and dislike a move at the same time for different reasons. Enter Dontrelle Willis. He’s always been awesome -- at least the idea of him has been. With a weird, contorted wind-up and a hometown story, it’s always been natural to hope for Willis on the Giants.

The reality, though, is that he hasn’t been good for four years. And this isn’t even a Todd Wellemeyer brand of not good. It’s a tanker filled with vinegar crashing into the baking soda outlet store kind of not good. He’s been easy to hit, and as wild as anyone in baseball. Think of the wildest pitcher you’ve ever watched. Russ Ortiz with sunstroke, say. Willis is far, far worse with his control. It’s not even close. When Jonathan Sanchez has one of those bang-your-head-against-the-desk days, he’ll walk five hitters in five innings. That’s about what Willis has averaged for the past three-plus seasons.

But he’s Dontrelle Willis! The Giants are under no obligation to do anything but pay him peanuts and see if they can fix him. It’s low-risk, high-reward, though the chances of the reward part are faint, if not non-existent. If the Giants could figure out why Willis went from wild to historically wild, they’ll have a bargain of a pitcher.

Yeah, just like they fixed Sam McDowell. That worked out well. It’s not like the current Giants organization is adept at taking Grover Lowdermilks and turning them into Bob Tewksburys. Maybe they are. I just wanted to type "Grover Lowdermilk."

But the Giants aren’t even looking at Willis to start:

 

Willis’ agent, Matt Sosnick said it’s his understanding that Willis will work out of the bullpen when he heads to Triple-A Fresno, not as a starter. Bochy praised him as a guy who can come in and get lefties out, which would seem to again indicate that if Willis is back to form, he’ll take the injured Dan Runzler’s spot in the ‘pen.

Ah. If there’s one thing that’s bothered me about Jeremy Affeldt and Dan Runzler, it’s that they are too fine with their command. They pound the strike zone too much. Hopefully, Willis can fix that.

Of course, the Giants might be on to something. Over his career, Willis has always dominated lefties. Even in an awful season like the one he’s going through right now, he’s been fantastic against lefties. Stick him in Fresno as a LOOGY. You don’t even need to save the receipt because he was a gift.

I’m not even worried about Bochy getting his mitts on Willis because veteran pitchers aren’t really the problem with Bochy. The bullpen under Bochy is as much of meritocracy as his lineup is a legacy-based construction. I can’t figure that out, but it’s better than unabashed veteranophila. If Willis didn’t pitch well as a lefty specialist, he’d be buried quickly.

Looking at the move strictly through the prism of logic, I have a strong "Why bother?" feeling. When that’s combined with the idea of Dontrelle Willis, likeable Bay Area product and former darling of the baseball world, I’m all for the move. It’s the sentimental fool in me. Here’s hoping that the lottery ticket makes us all rich.

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