I'm going to have to drive like a flying mammal out of the nether regions of Hades to make sure I get home in enough time to catch me some Dontrelle Willis.
I should, and do, get excited when I have the chance to see pitchers like Roger Clemens do their thing. But there is a subtle difference between the marvel of a Clemens, a pitcher like Jason Schmidt (pre 2005 difficulties), and Willis.
With Clemens, the amazement comes from watching him perform like this at such an advanced age. Now, I could be an a-hole and wonder aloud why it is that people jump on position players with regards to alleged steroid use and not pitchers, but I will let that pass (oh, too late).
However, I don't really care. Clemens is amazing, he's been amazing for many years, and it's hard to envision when the wheels will actually fall off.
Someone like Schmidt is different. I don't think any of us think Schmidt will still be capable of putting up seasons like 2003 or 2004 when he's 40 -- we've seen the best he can be, and it'll only likely get worse. However, when Schmidt's on, he's one of the best around. When I see him start to put it together, it's not really wonder, it's more like...anticipation.
Willis...well, it gets back to the wonder and amazement like with Clemens, but the subtle difference is the knowledge that we are possibly seeing a future Hall of Famer build his resume. The kid really does have it all -- velocity, plus breaking stuff, and the personality, both in his face-to-face personality (fun loving) and his personality on the mound which personifies itself through his pitching motion. None of us need to see Dontrelle's motion to know it's him -- just give us a silhouette and there will be no mistaking that full body twist and super-high leg kick. I've always likened Willis' pitching motion to Hideo Nomo's, only about five times faster. Willis twists quickly, throws that leg up, and unleashes towards the plate. Nomo almost looked as if he was still deciding what pitch to throw while winding up.
It ought to be fun to watch, despite Willis' recent troubles. His last two starts vs. the Cubs and Phillies have been forgettable, but unfortunately this just sets up our Giants to be Willis' get-right team. I'm thinking Brett Tomko will have to pitch seven innings, at least, to keep the Giants in it. I don't anticipate them scoring more than three or four runs tonight.
But, as Chris Berman is wont to say, that's why they play the games...