Carlos Villanueva was sent down to AAA after today’s game, according to Adam McCalvy, in order to make room for LaTroy Hawkins’s return from the DL.
Villanueva has had a pretty solid year this year, particularly when you look at his peripherals. Yes, he’s walking more batters than his previous career marks, but the increase in strikeouts more than makes up for it. 2010, at least entering today’s game, represented career highs in both FIP (3.48) and xFIP (3.38), although part of that is due to this year being Villanueva’s first as a full time reliever. More important, though, is that Villanueva’s swinging strike rate of 13% is the highest of his career, and swinging strike rate is the best indicator of a pitcher that can draw strikeouts.
Due to the fact that this increased strikeout rate is only in 48 innings, ZiPS only projects a 4.05 FIP for Villanueva, actually well worse than the 3.40 projected for Hawkins. Competetively, this move is pretty meaningless, as the Brewers are replacing a solid, right handed reliever with another solid, right handed reliever, and it’s hard to argue with using Villanueva’s remaining option here. Still, I hope Villanueva doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. He has good stuff and misses bats like crazy, which is pretty much what you need in a relief pitcher.