2013 Pitching Profile: Carlos Villanueva
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After becoming a free agent in October 2012, Carlos Villanueva struck a two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs in early January. The Giants first signed the 29-year-old Dominican Republic native as an undrafted free agent in 2002, and then traded him to the Brewers in 2004.
Villanueva made his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2006 and played a valuable swing role with the team for five seasons before moving north of the border to the Blue Jays. For his career, he has a 33-35 record and a 4.23 ERA. He has made only 57 career starts in 302 games, but made the most starts of his career last season (16) with the Jays.
For now, with Matt Garza and Scott Baker on the DL, Villanueva fills the fifth spot in the Cubs starting rotation. In his first game against the Braves on April 6, Villanueva looked strong, going 6.2 innings with six strikeouts and one earned run. He staked his team to a 5-1 lead, but earned a no-decision after the Braves rallied in the eighth and ninth innings.
The man with the best moustache in baseball is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line‘s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (90), 2-seam (89), Change (82), Slider (82), Curve (74), Slow Curve (63)
2012 Stats: 125 IP, 23.4 K%, 8.1 UBB%, 4.16 ERA, 102 ERA+, 1.27 WHIP
Last Season: For the second consecutive year, Villanueva played a swing role, filling in admirably as a starter before fading late. Now he joins the Cubs on a two-year deal that has him replacing an injured Matt Garza early on. Usage will be important: Villanueva’s numbers have suffered from a few bad starts in the past.
Plan of Attack: Pitch to all four quadrants. Villanueva relies on a full assortment of pitches to all corners of the zone. His command is vital. He pitches off his four- and two-seam fastballs, and he loves to pull the string with a change-up on an aggressive hitter. He goes to the change heavily when behind in the count, as well as on first pitches against lefties. It got him in trouble with the long ball in 2012, but he gets a good mix of grounders and whiffs when it’s working down and away.
Putaway Pitch: Slider. Villanueva’s best breaking ball is his slider, a pitch with hard downward bite. More than 60 percent of his strikeouts last year came on the pitch, and it’s effective whether breaking in on lefties or away from righties. It did flatten out in 2011, and Villanueva’s strikeouts hit a career low. But the renewed tilt last year bounced the K rate back from 15 percent to 23 percent.
*Numbers courtesy of Brooks Baseball