For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
Player: Carlos Villanueva
Season stats: 4-3, 2 SV, 2.95 ERA, 35 games, 61 IP, 50 H, 6 HR, 21 BB, 55 K, 1.164 WHIP, 3.74 FIP, 0.9 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 1
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Posted a career-best ERA and tied for his second-best FIP….six times he threw three or more innings and only gave up a total of three runs in those situations….had a stretch of 11 straight appearances without giving up a run….allowed only one home run in 35 innings at home….had a 1.72 ERA in the first half….limited hitters to a .074 average in April….batters hit .214 leading off an inning….opposing hitters were kept to a .449 OPS when there was one out in an inning….batters hit .185 with runners in scoring position….only had one appearance in the NLDS, throwing two scoreless innings.
Negatives: Righties hit .252 against him….gave up five of his six homers on the road….struggled to end the season, putting up a 5.73 ERA in September….batters had a 1.417 OPS on his first pitch….the first batter he faced in an outing had a .710 OPS against him….five of his six homers were allowed with two outs, leading to hitters having a .918 OPS in that situation….significant dropoff after 25 pitches, with a .958 OPS after that mark compared to a .595 OPS before it.
Overview: Villanueva, for the most part, was just what this team needed, a veteran long man that Matheny could turn to in extra inning situations or if a starter had to leave early. When he was signed, it was noted how much better his numbers were in relief than as a starter and that certainly paid off for St. Louis in 2015. Even with those late struggles, which was mainly four runs in an inning against Pittsburgh in one September outing, he still was a huge addition to the bullpen. There were times where Villanueva didn’t get much work (and rust could have contributed some to a bad end of August), but he was usually there when he was needed and it helped fans not panic when yet another extra inning game rolled around. All in all, a very shrewd move by John Mozeliak.
Outlook: The Cards have already talked about not having specialists in the bullpen next season, using players like Tyler Lyons in similar ways as they did Villanueva. While Villanueva is a free agent, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Cardinals to talk to him about coming back for a similar type of gig next year. Then again, if they are going to have more long men in the bullpen, they may decide not to push their luck and let Villanueva move on to his next stop.