I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us have not only sucked at something in our life, but we’ve probably been fired from doing that thing. It happens. A lot of times you can look at it as a gentle nudge toward something different. After today’s game, Carlos Villanueva may need to be checking his mail frequently as there may be a white envelope with a pink piece of paper inside.

If you missed the game today, you’re better for it. What you missed was a complete debacle from Villanueva who allowed nine earned runs in just three innings of work. That outing, paired with a few others this season, has caused his ERA to balloon to a hefty 11.57, and has me wondering if not only his spot in the rotation, but also his spot on this team could be in jeopardy as Jake Arrieta nears his return. Arrieta pitched his second rehab outing on Thursday, going 3.2 innings. Most likely he’ll need one more outing before returning on a shortened pitch count and then back to full strength. Prior to today, you would have thought that would mean one more start for Villanueva before a move to the bullpen. Instead we’re left to wonder where he stands in the team’s plan moving forward this season.

Most likely there are some out there who feel Villanueva is a better option than his likely replacement, Chris Rusin. Those people, as strange as it may sound, probably have a thing for guys with curly greasy mustaches. However, you can make a case for why Villanueva is the guy that should go.

1. He Has Added Nothing of Value This Season – Coming into the game today, albeit a small sample size of just 6.1 IP, Villanueva had posted a WAR of exactly 0.0. That, if you are unfamiliar with the stat, means that he had been a replacement level player so far. Throw in today’s debacle and that number is sure to decrease. Looking at his past, he’s been a what you see is what you get type of player. He’s not really going to wow you, but he serves a purpose. This season, that hasn’t been the case.

2. He Has One Option Year Remaining – This one gets a little complicated, but when you look at it, he does have an option year remaining, though it comes with some strings attached. Because of the amount of service time he has accrued in the Majors, there are a few things that would have to happen for him to be able to be optioned to AAA. Any player who has at least five years of MLB service must give their consent before being optioned to the minors. That could be a tricky one, as what incentive would there be for him to consent? The only reason I could see is that the Cubs go to him and express to him the fact that his time in the rotation is done with the Major League team and offer him the opportunity to start in AAA to not only audition for another option with the Cubs, but also with another team. The other sticking point with optioning Villanueva to the minors would also be related to service time. He would need to clear revocable waivers prior to being optioned. Given how he’s looked in the past, and the fact that he makes $5 million for this year only, that would seem to make him an attractive risk for a team hurting for innings, but it’s worth a try. If he’s claimed you can always pull him back and try to work out a trade or just elect to keep him.

3. Chris Rusin Is Younger – This team, whether you like it or not, is interested in looking at the talent they have in house. They are much more interested in seeing those guys get playing time to be evaluated than they are with veterans holding down a roster spot. Rusin came in today and pitched well in relief on somewhat short rest, given the fact that he made a start on Tuesday in AAA. By no means do I think Rusin is the long term answer, because he’s not, but at this point what do you have to lose? You know what Villanueva is and we’ve not quite learned what Rusin is. There was a time in July and August last year where he was outstanding, posting great numbers out of the rotation.

Split ERA GS IP HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
July 2.93 3 15.1 2 4 9 0.978 5.3 2.25
August 2.65 6 34.0 2 15 20 1.441 5.3 1.33
Sept/Oct 7.41 4 17.0 4 5 7 1.529 3.7 1.40

Why not let Rusin get the last start before Arrieta comes back and see what he can do with it? At that point, if you send him to the pen if gives you a long man to replace Villanueva and also another lefty, for those of you interested in the lefty / righty matchup stuff.


MVP – Daniel Descalso (.190 WPA)

  • In case you missed it, Rick Renteria mentioned before the game that, for now, Jose Veras would not be involved in closing out a game in a save situation and that they would use a closer by committee approach for the time being. We didn’t get to see it today, but you have to imagine that Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon are the leading candidates for that role going forward. Interesting nugget, Rondon currently has a 16 inning scoreless streak he’s working on.
  • Starlin Castro had a pair of hits today, a double and a single, and drove in his 8th run of the season. Last season it took till April 25th for Castro to have 8 RBI, and he had just 44 all year. If he’s going to hit in that 6th spot in the order, which I’m perfectly fine with, he’s going to need to capitalize on the opportunities that come his way to be a run producer and so far he’s doing just that.
  • Darwin Barney got the start at second base in favor Emilio Bonifacio to give him a day off. The result? 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Back to the bench you go, young man.

The Cubs have a chance to win their first series dating back to early September last season. They have not won a series in their last eight tries. To do it, they’ll have to get bast a tough cookie with a less than the best starting pitcher of their own. Let’s take a look at tomorrow’s opponent.

Michael Wacha

MLB.com

Wacha opened the year with two starts against the Reds, who have yet to solve him. Though his final line was impressive, Wacha labored through an 82-pitch effort Monday. The leadoff hitter reached against him four times in six innings.

Wikipedia

Standing 6′ 6″ (78 inches (200 cm)) tall and weighing 210 pounds (95 kg), Wacha repeats the same delivery with all his pitches.Featuring a plus-plus sinking fastball that usually travels between 92 miles per hour (148 km/h) and 95 miles per hour (153 km/h), Wacha frequently shows velocity up to 97 miles per hour (156 km/h). His high arm angle and release point create substantial downward action on his fastball. Wacha’s fastball complement, a plus-plus changeup, features deep, fading movement to right-handed hitters with a 10 miles per hour (16 km/h) to 12 miles per hour (19 km/h) decrease in velocity from his fastball. Not only is his arm angle on the two pitches the same, the arm speed appears virtually identical to the hitter, thus disguising the difference in velocity.

Wacha’s third pitch is an average curveball that travels about 77 miles per hour (124 km/h) and has improved in break and consistency; in college, scouts considered his curveball a below average pitch. He has a fourth pitch, a slider, that lacks consistent break and darts horizontally similar to the cutter. Wacha attributed the increase in pitch velocity to gaining weight from physical exercise and increased food consumption, asserting that he “felt like the velocity just kept on increasing every single year. I changed my mechanics a little bit when I was in college, and that might have added a few ticks.”Wacha added a cut fastball (commonly called a “cutter”) late in the 2013 season, though he only threw the pitch 1.8% of the time. During the 2014 spring training, Wacha showed increased confidence in the pitch after finding a consistent grip.

Depending on the source, Wacha shows a wide range of potential. Scouting reports initially projected him for a potential of two plus-plus pitches (fastball and changeup) with command of both. Baseball Prospectus noted that his polish due to pitch command helped fast-track him to the Major Leagues. However, a dearth of vigorous fastball life escalates the importance of command. Wacha offsets the shortage of sizable vertical movement with the pronounced descent through which his fastball, changeup and curve travel to create an additional obstacle as hitters to attempt square the bat on the pitch. In addition, the drop in elevation changes the hitter’s eye level. Wacha was previously criticized for a heavy reliance on the fastball from lacking a solid breaking pitch. Before refining his curveball, Baseball Prospect Nation commented that development of a slider “to even only an occasional ‘show-me’ pitch would add another element to his game and allow him to become more refined in his pitch sequencing ability to work through a lineup.”

During each at-bat, Wacha does not easily give in to the batter. He maintains his composure on the mound. With both fastball and changeup being plus-plus pitches and improved command, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Prospect Nation conclude his likely future is as a solid number-three starter. However, as command of his curve has markedly improved, so have his projections. The same initial reports stated that if he could enhance his slider’s reliability, he may be able to become a low-end number two starter. Still others, such as scout Ralph Garr, Jr., and Kantrovitz, project him as a “future top-of-the-rotation guy.”

How He Pitches To Lefties / Righties


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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail