Before yesterday’s start against the Cardinals, Jose Quintana last appeared on a big league mound on July 10th, giving him an unusually long 11-day rest between outings. Sure, the All-Star break was tucked in there, providing a little natural relief, but the extra time off was deliberate: “Normal fatigue,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said about Quintana. “He just seemed to be fatiguing a bit – nothing awful.”
Well, whether he was fatiguing yesterday or not, Jose Quintana spun a gem, and a lengthy one at that: 7.0 IP, 6H, 2ER, 4BB (2 intentional), 6Ks, 121 pitches.
Take a look at the highlights:
The fact that Quintana was able to toss 121 pitches not only shows that he was feeling strong enough to do it, but also that the Cubs’ coaches and trainers (and possibly front office members) were equally convinced. That’s a very good sign that the fatigue he experienced was not/is not lingering on – they simply wouldn’t have let him go that long if it was an issue.
It certainly took me by surprise, because once he finish the sixth inning – at 111 pitches! – I assumed his day was over and Tweeted out the following:
That’s three straight quality starts for Jose Quintana.
18.0 IP, 14H, 4ER, 9BBs, 13Ks.
A little wild, but you take it.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) July 22, 2018
But Quintana went back out there and threw one more scoreless inning, needing just 10 pitches to get through it. Dude’s a beast.
In any case, Quintana did get his third straight quality start, so that new line should read: 19.0 IP, 14H, 4ER, 9BB, 13Ks. And of those nine walks, two were intentional (both yesterday), so in reality his 11.8% walk rate is more like a 9.2% walk rate – which is a very big difference.
During this mini-stretch, Quintana’s earned a 1.89 ERA while opposing batters are hitting just .209 off him. He hasn’t struck many guys out and hasn’t really been keeping the ball on the ground during this stretch, but he’s been a contact-manager king, and it’s more than enough to justify the results:
Those numbers are both fantastic. Quintana has simply had it working lately and it’s been great to see.
“It was a really big deal for me,” Quintana told Cubs.com after the game. “I’m glad that the manager had faith in me in a tight game to go seven innings …. I felt really strong the whole time. I went out there and tried to pitch as hard as I could. I felt that’s what I did, just going pitch by pitch, inning by inning. That’s all you can really focus on.”
So where does that leave him overall? Well as of the start of play today, Quintana’s 3.87 ERA ranks 39th overall in MLB and 19th best in the National League, one spot ahead of Kyle Hendricks, as it is. His FIP, on the other hand, is actually among the highest (worst) in baseball, so he’s still got some work to do – especially because, as a whole, he’s given up a lot of hard contact this season.
But if you’re looking for that bright side to hang onto, just know that he’s got a 2.94 ERA over his last 9 starts (52.0 IP) with a ground ball rate over 40% and an elevated 14.3% infield fly ball rate. He’s certainly not been the most dominant version of Jose Quintana we’ve ever seen, but he’s making it work. Let’s see if he (and Jon Lester) can keep defying the advanced stats the rest of the way, or can simply improve on those numbers while still getting the results.