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All-Time Marlins Countdown Chapter 141: D-Train

Dontrelle Willis spent the best part of his career with the Marlins.

Florida Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Florida and Miami Marlins have used a total of 630 players on the field in a regular season game through their first 28 seasons of major league play.

In our offseason-long series on every player to appear with the team, we’ve already taken a look at 605 of them. Down to the homestretch now, we’ll be focusing on one player per article from here on out.

The final 128 players in the series accumulated at least 800 PA or BF, and the final 108 put up numbers placing them above replacement level, according to Baseball Reference.

25. Dontrelle Willis

Dontrelle Willis, who is known affectionately around these parts as “D-Train,” is a six-foot-two left-handed pitcher from Oakland, California. In 2000, the Chicago Cubs took him in the eighth round of the draft with the 223rd overall selection out of Encinal HS (26 picks ahead of Brandon Webb).

Willis used five pitches in his repertoire, a four-seamer, a slider, a sinker, a curve, and a changeup. He was also well known for his crazy high-leg kick.

Although Willis eventually played a total of nine major league seasons, the bulk of his time (and the best of his time, as well) was spent with the Florida Marlins. Just prior to the 2002 regular season, the Cubs traded Willis with minor league Jose Cueto, Ryan Jorgensen (#623), and Julian Tavarez (#243) to the Marlins for Antonio Alfonseca (#75) and Matt Clement (#115).

Willis’ first season in the Marlins organization was spent between Single-A and High-A, during which he pitched to a 12-2 record and a 0.882 WHIP and struck out 128 in 157 23 frames. He graduated to the major league level on May 9, 2003, pitching a quality start in no decision against the Colorado Rockies. On June 16, he pitched a one-hitter, walking one and striking out eight in a 1-0 victory against the New York Mets.

Willis was good enough as a rookie to get selected to the National League All Star Team, tying for the team lead in victories with a 14-6 record. He struck out 142 batters in 160 23 innings, racking up a 1.282 WHIP in the process and earning a 3.30 ERA.

In the postseason, Willis was less effective, walking as many as he struck out (10) and allowing 1.974 WHIP. He only started in two of his seven appearances, and didn’t earn a winning decision. It didn’t really matter in the end, as the Marlins took home their second World Series title in six years. Willis was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

After a lukewarm 2004 campaign which saw Willis’ WHIP club to 1.376 and go 10-11, 2005 would mark a return to form. He was selected to the All Star team for the second time, and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award vote. He led the majors in victories, going 22-10, and also led everyone with seven complete games and five shutouts. He earned decisions in 94 percent of his starts, a mark that’s unlikely to be matched anytime soon.

Willis set a career best with a 1.134 WHIP and also led the majors with a 0.4 HR/9 rate. He started the season with consecutive shutouts and wins in his first seven starts, pitching to a 1.08 ERA and an opposing slashline of .193/.237/.261.

Willis spent another two seasons in the Marlins rotation, finishing his tenure with the franchise ranking second all-time in victories, going 68-54 with a 3.78 ERA. He’s third on the leaderboard with 757 strikeouts, second with 1022 23 innings pitched, and first with 15 complete games and eight shutouts.

After the 2007 season, the Marlins traded Willis with Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for minor leaguer Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop (#84), Frankie De La Cruz (#542), Cameron Maybin (#43), Andrew Miller (#128), and Mike Rabelo (#363).

Willis went 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA over three seasons with the Tigers, although Cabrera did somewhat better. He later pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cincinnati Reds. After three seasons of minor league ball, Willis retired during 2015 Spring Training.