If you had missed the entirety of his last start and simply scouted the stat line, you would’ve probably been thrilled with the results of Jose Quintana’s latest effort.
After all, six full innings of 4-hit, 3-run ball with no walks and nine strikeouts is really quite great.
But if you watched the game from the beginning, I’m guessing you might have a slightly different take on his evening. Because for the fourth time in the past six games, Jose Quintana allowed first-inning runs. That’s a total of 11 first-inning runs during that stretch, which, well, yeah, that’s not great, and it’s not something we want to see repeated tonight.
And although Quintana settled down from there and allowed just one more run (a solo shot from Josh Bell in his final inning) the rest of the night, we were reminded – once again – of his early game and overall struggles since coming to the Cubs.
Since joining the Cubs, Quintana has earned a rough-looking 4.50 ERA (though I’ll point out that a 4.36 ERA is league average this year). His peripherals suggest he’s been quite a bit better (4.01 FIP, 3.53 xFIP), but it’s not difficult to see that he’s had his issues.*
So what’s up?
After all, we know that Quintana’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the past five seasons (20.6 WAR from 2013-now ranks 7th in MLB, AHEAD of Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, and Stephen Strasburg), so is something else the matter?
At CSN Chicago, Patrick Mooney asks if Quintana might be feeling the pressure of living up to a high-profile, cross-city, multi-top-prospect deal. But does Quintana feel that? No way. At least, that’s what he said.
“I feel comfortable here,” Quintana said. “All the coaches and teammates make it easy to be here. Sometimes, it’s new for me. I’ve never been in that (position before). But I feel really good here.”
I think, sometimes, we take for granted that these aren’t just players, or numbers, or, worse, assets for us to dissect and discuss. They’re all real, living people who react to things in different ways.
Of course that goes double in Quintana’s case. Most of us just assumed that because he wouldn’t have to change cities – the White Sox still play on the South Side, last time I checked – there’d be absolutely no personal adjustments to make. But perhaps that isn’t true. In any case, Quintana won’t lean on it. He went on to explain that the game doesn’t change no matter where you play it and his one goal is to help get his team to the playoffs.
Joe Maddon, on the other hand, thinks Quintana has been a little “amped up” at times and is still trying to impress his new teammates, coaching staff, and fans. But he also thinks he’ll settle in, like he did after the first inning in his last outing, and be really good for a long time. We can only hope.
I know it’s sometimes frustrating to hear that a certain player’s struggles are not specifically tied to an obvious mechanical adjustment or change in pitch mix, but that may well be what’s happening here. Hopefully, Quintana’s a little less amped up for tonight’s game against those same Pirates, and builds off the quality start he just produced against them at Wrigley.
With the postseason just around the corner, now would certainly be the time to turn things up.
*But again, I have to say that his 28.4 K% and 7.8 BB% look mighty nice.