The more I watch Carlos Villanueva pitch, and the more often he performs well out of the bullpen, the more I think that he could be the Brewers long-term solution in the closer's role. Take a look at his career numbers as a starter and as a reliever:
What I suspect will give some people pause at this suggestion is that Villanueva doesn't "seem" like a closer. He doesn't have that "closer's mentality".
Back in the 1970's, Al Hrabosky started this notion that in order to be an effective Major League closer, you have to be somehow abnormal. You have to look unkept, have a mop of hair, a long beard or funny mustache. Or you have to be fat, wear goggles and not ever tuck in your jersey. The history of Major League Baseball is littered with oddballs (1|2|3) who have been effective closers. Carlos Villanueva is not any of these things.
But while baseball has had it's share of goofs in the closer's role, it has had it's share of "normal" pitchers as well. Clean-cut, even tempered guys who went about their business and got their jobs done without calling an undue amount of attention to themselves. Mariano Rivera comes immediately to mind. He has never been a headline grabber in New York, yet will move to #2 on baseball's all-time saves list later this year or early next. The same can be said about Trevor Hoffman, the career leader in saves. John Franco is 4th on the career list. Randy Myers, Troy Percival, John Wetteland, Roberto Hernandez, Rick Aguilera, Tom Henke, and Jeff Montgomery are all in the top twenty. It is not a prerequisite that you be some sort of misfit in order to be an effective closer in the Major Leagues.
Carlos Villanueva is only 24 years old. He has a long career ahead of him and the Brewers don't have a lot of other long-term options. If you were to guess who the closer will be in 2010, you would have a hard time coming up with another candidate. Torres? Too old. Mota, Shouse? Ditto. Gagne? Please. Then what - Turnbow??? The answer may be right under their nose.
* * *
UPDATE: I just did a little more research. At the time Mariano Rivera was exactly as old as Carlos Villanueva is today, he had yet to throw a single pitch in the Major Leagues. Their birthdays are only one day apart - Rivera, Nov. 29 and Villanueva, Nov. 28.