Carlos Miguel Villanueva Paulino
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 190 lb.
Carlos Villanueva represents a rare commodity in baseball in the 2010s: a pitcher who is more suited to long relief than any other role. With the advent of bloated bullpens numbering seven or eight pitchers, it has become relatively rare for a manager to formally designate someone as a long reliever. Yet, Villanueva has had outstanding success in the role: in April of 2015, his career record in games in which he had pitched two or more innings of relief was an unbelievable 16-2, with an ERA in the 1.70s. To put this in perspective, his overall won/loss record at that point, in his 10th big league season, was below .500 and his ERA around 4.25.
The problem is that his managers have always had a tendency, when he experiences success in long relief, to want to use him as a starter, but his results have been mixed in the role (18-33 with an ERA of 5.00 at the same point). This is likely because he lacks the stamina to pitch deep into games, and because his psychological make-up makes him more effective when he goes into a game without having had to think about it for a few days, as starters do. Because he does not throw particularly hard and has a nice variety of pitches, he can pitch for a number of innings in relief on short notice without being exposed, not like a typical short reliever who goes all out by using only one or two pitches, and whose efficiency diminishes very quickly as his pitch count builds during a game.
He first came to the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006, staying with the team until 2010. He pitched twice for the Brewers in the 2008 NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up no hits in 3 2/3 innings. He moved to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012. In 2013 and 2014, he was with the Chicago Cubs and in 2015 joined the St. Louis Cardinals.