Friday, August 15, 2014
Unsung pitcher: Jose Quintana
By David Schoenfield
In the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, there were suggestions out there that the White Sox should trade Jose Quintana, or that teams should be going after Quintana. Those aren't quite the same thing, but you can see why the idea percolated: (A) The White Sox weren't going anywhere, and he's one of the few valuable commodities they have, and (B) he could bolster a rotation but wouldn't cost you as much as a David Price or a Jon Lester.
The problem I had with the whole trade Quintana thing, even if they were just random suggestions and rumors: Quintana is the kind of pitcher you build around, not trade away. He's young (25), he's inexpensive, and he's really, really good.
It's that latter one that some people have a hard time believing. Quintana was never a top prospect; in fact, he was never really a prospect at all. Originally signed by the Mets out of Colombia in 2006, Quintana, then 17, tested positive that October for violating minor league baseball's drug policy. Suspended for the start of the 2007 season, the Mets released him in July before he had even pitched that year. He was out of baseball for four months, thinking his professional career was over.
"I feel like it was lack of orientation more than anything," Quintana told MLB.com in 2013. "I was just taking medicine. I wasn't trying to get anything else. I was going to a gym where they had a sports medicine guy."
The Yankees eventually signed Quintana as a free agent. He spent two years in the Dominican summer league and two years in Class A ball. He had decent numbers at Tampa in 2011, pitching primarily in relief, but the Yankees didn't put him on their 40-man roster, and the White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent thanks to some good scouting work from Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers, who saw a potential starter.
Quintana quickly reached the majors in 2012, went 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 33 starts last year, and this year he's 6-9, but with a 3.14 ERA and solid numbers across the board. Don't blame Quintana for his win-loss record -- he has had seven starts where he allowed one run or no runs and won just two of those, with five no-decisions.
Those numbers the past two seasons are even more impressive when considering that he pitches his home games in a good hitters' park (or, more specifically, one of the best home run parks in the majors).
Quintana has a pretty typical repertoire: a four-seamer, a two-seamer he has been throwing more often this year, an excellent curveball and a changeup.
Here's one stat that helps explain Quintana's success even though his fastball averages 91.4 mph (decent enough for a lefty). His swing-and-miss percentage with his fastball is 45.4 percent; Price's is 45.7 percent. He pounds the strike zone with it, but what I like best about Quintana's approach is that he doesn't use it just to set up his curveball. He actually uses it a lot with two strikes to finish off batters -- he's seventh in the majors in strikeouts recorded with his fastball.
Anyway, it's hard for Quintana to get much attention pitching in the same rotation as Chris Sale. It doesn't help that the White Sox haven't exactly been in the spotlight these past two years.
By the way, here's one final stat, Baseball-Reference WAR, 2013-2014:
To be fair, he's behind both on FanGraphs, but still 11th overall in the majors.
Either way, that sounds like an unsung pitcher to me.