Saturday, July 05, 2014

Jose Quintana is better than you think

The Chicago White Sox have not been very good the last couple of seasons even though this year is a lot better than last year. Chris Sale gets a lot of the attention with the press along with some rookie from Cuba who has 27 homers already. An often overlooked player on the team is another lefty that has to follow Sale in the rotation. He is Jose Quintana. And he is much better than you think.
If I was to ask you where you would find Jose Quintana on's leaderboard, where do you think you would find him? Probably most would say around 30th or somewhere like that. Would you ever guess that he is tied for twelfth along with Zimmermann and Richards? Probably not. Here are a couple of other numbers you might not guess:
  • FIP - 20th, tied with Greinke
  • Home Runs per fly ball - 10th, tied with Zimmermann
But Jose Quintana is 5-7. So he can't be that good, right? Wrong. Consider that he pitches in front of the 24th least efficient defense out of thirty teams with the 26th worst fielding percentage. That has led to eight unearned runs during his time on the mound. More than that, it leads to more batters to face and get in trouble.
Jose Quintana is only 25-years-old. He is already in his third big league season. His numbers do not put him among the elite pitchers of the league, but considering the team around him, he's doing great.
Quintana was signed by the Mets as a seventeen-year-old out of Columbia. That was in 2006. The Mets released him a year later. He was awful and could not find home plate. His season with the Mets resulted in double-digit walks per nine. He did not play professional baseball in the United States in 2007. In 2008, the Yankees signed him.
His rise with the Yankee organization was painfully slow. He was granted free agency and re-signed with the Yankees in 2010. He went 10-2 in High A for the Yankees in 2011 and then he was a free agent again. The White Sox picked him up.
The White Sox started him in Double-A in 2012 and called him up early in the season that year (making the big jump from Double-A) and he has never looked back since. He has put together three solid seasons despite learning on the job. The White Sox have a great pitching coach, so he could not have had a better education. And he is only going to get better.
And he has been durable. He does not miss starts. He started 33 games last year and finished with 200 innings. This year, averaging 6.2 innings per outing, he is on pace to slightly beat those numbers.
As a lefty, he has been tough on left-handed batters, limiting them to a .650 OPS this season. But he is nearly as good against batters from the other side who have had a .680 OPS against him. He throws both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball combined about 59 percent of the time. His fastball has rated well for the last two season. His curve is his second best pitch and it has improved greatly this year.
One of his biggest strengths is that he throws an unusually high number of first pitch strikes. He was over 65% in that category last year and over 64% of the time this year. While he could still cut down a bit on his walks, he has a better chance setting up hitters if he can pour that first pitch in for a strike more often than not.
Quintana is on a particularly good run right now. He has pitched 21 innings in his last three starts and has given up only three runs in those games. He has allowed only one run in his last two outings against the Orioles and Blue Jays, both wins, against two good offenses.
Perhaps someday Jose Quintana will pitch for a better team with better defense. He would be considered a ground ball pitcher with a 1.53 ground ball to fly ball ratio so defense is important to him. Someday, with a better team behind him and a few less walks, Jose Quintana will be a star. His is not a star now, but he is very good and much better than most people think.

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