While sitting in the bleachers before last night’s win over the Brewers, I posed a bit of trivia to Brett, regarding how many times Jose Quintana had faced Milwaukee this season. The relatively shocking answer – to us, at least – is six. Six times Quintana has faced the same team in one season alone. Considering that divisional foes face each other for six series in a year, that’s pretty nuts.
Fortunately, since he started facing the Brewers back in 2012, Quintana has handled the Crew quite well:
José Quintana last 5 starts:
1.84 ERA, 29.1 IP, 21 Hits, 10 BB, 25 K, 0 HR, 1.057 WHIP
10 career starts vs Brewers
1.60 ERA, 67.1 IP, 40 Hits, 15 BB, 63 K, 5 HR, 0.817 WHIP#Cubs
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 12, 2018
Even if we eliminate the 2 starts he made against the Brewers before coming to the Cubs last season, Quintana has held them to a .164/.231/.273 slash line while earning 1.89 ERA in his career. That’s … really, really good. In fact, it’s even better when you consider that he was blown up for five earned runs against Milwaukee earlier this season! Indeed, despite that awful performance, his ERA is STILL under 2.00 over eight starts against the Brewers in a Cubs uniform. Suffice it to say, if it ever comes down to Brewers/Cubs in a playoff series, you probably want Jose Quintana on the mound.
But how about the first half of that tweet? Over his last five starts (starting right after the blowup against the Brewers, actually), Quintana has earned a 1.84 ERA and 2.58 FIP. He’s gotten a solid (if unspectacular) 45.0% ground ball rate and 33.8% fly ball rate … and an absolutely fantastic 16.1 hard%. To be sure, he’s still allowed a ton of medium contact, but that is an *elite* hard contact rate if held for any significant period of time. And as a matter of fact, it was even better than that last night (12.5%).
When his night was over, Quintana went 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks against 7 strikeouts. It was the third start in a row he’s lasted at least 6.0 innings and the second time he was just one out away from finishing the seventh (an inning he didn’t finish this time because of a dribbler that became a hit on replay review).
And might I say, this is all coming together for him at just the right time.
Despite the 7 strikeouts last night, Quintana wasn’t really missing a ton of bats (6 whiffs), which means the Brewers were watching a whole of strikes go by. In fact, Quintana’s 52.3% zone-swing rate last night was his second lowest mark of the season. Interestingly, however, three of the lowest four zone-swing rates in Quintana starts this season belong to the Brewers. They’ve clearly got a “be patient” strategy going on with him, but it’s not quite working. I wonder if mounting frustration has developed into a “just be patient so we can work up his pitch count and get him out of this game”-type mentality, even if that’s not working either.
With that all said, Quintana still did get 5 whiffs on his curveball, alone, which is what you want to see from that pitch. And, in turn, that probably had something to do with the fact that his fastball velocity continued to rise, matching the season high he posted in his last time out. If he can continue to work with this slightly elevated velocity, I think he’ll continue to limit the hard contact and keep hitters off balance. He’s not the best version of himself this season, but lately, he’s been pretty darn good.
And if there was ever a time to turn it up a notch, now is it.