What Does Jose Quintana Do?

Take a look at Jose Quintana‘s collection of pitches, and there’s not much there to appreciate. Kind of makes you wonder how he does what he does, even if that creep can roll. His ERA is in the top 40 over the last two years, and yet none of his three most important peripheral stats rank in the top 40… how has he become more than the sum of his parts?

There is one peripheral that makes Quintana a top fifty guy — his 2.62 walks per nine over the last two years are 47th among qualified pitchers. Actually, the guy next to him looks remarkably similar in terms of peripherals. Paul Maholm struck out 6.45 per nine, walked 2.63 per nine and got grounders 51.3% of the time. Quintana’s work in those three stats — 6.56, 2.62 and 44.5% — are hardly superior. And yet people probably value Quintana higher.

That might have something to do with his higher strikeout rate last year. His 19.7% strikeout rate in 2013 was actually above average for an American League starter (18.8%). His swinging strike rate (8.8%) was barely above average (8.6%), though, and there is the problem of his pitch peripherals. Only Quintana’s fastball got above-average whiffs last season. By that stat, his curve (12%) is meh, his change (9%) is terrible, and his cutter (9%) is eh.

You can live on the fastball, that’s fine, for a while. But we know that a pitcher’s velocity starts declining from the minute they enter the big leagues. And though Quintana added a tick on his fastball — and added 50% whiffs on the pitch with that one tick — he’s going to be 25 this season and there’s no reason to think he’ll add more going forward. Any reduction in velocity, back to the 91 mph he had in his rookie year, will likely reduce his strikeout rate to below average.

All that would be fine if he had ground-ball stuff. The overall rates don’t suggest he does, but there is some hope in his pitch peripherals. His sinker and change, when seen together, offer almost 60% ground balls. As Quintana loses some gas on the four-seam, he could decide to throw more two-seamers and get grounders along with his hard changeup.

Still, a package like that — a good but not great fastball, a hard change for ground balls, and a meh curve — that’s not a package that would normally produce sub-four ERAs, especially in a park like The Cell. Consider that Paul Maholm‘s slider gets more whiffs, and his sinker and change get more grounders than Quintana’s, and all that separates the two is a couple ticks on the fastball and seven years of age. In 2007, Maholm was throwing almost 91 and had better stats than Quintana did last season, too.

If you’d like a young Paul Maholm, then it’s all systems go for Quintana. That’s great in real life, where the player represents a great scouting find for the White Sox — he was released from the Yankees as a six-year minor league free agent — and a late bloomer that only came to baseball after his local soccer teams filled their rosters too quickly when he was 14. If you thought he’d be more than that for your fantasy team, you might be disappointed.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

15 Responses to “What Does Jose Quintana Do?”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    I’m gonna make you a Quintana believer yet!

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  2. Mike D says:

    Yeah, but he’s a pervert, Dude

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  3. Tom B says:

    Quintana’s value is higher in K/BB leagues, as highlighted in previous articles.

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  4. Dandy Salderson says:

    That creep can roll.

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  5. Huisj says:

    Maholm has never averaged even 90 MPH for a season according to his page. It’s a little misleading to say he was throwing nearly 91 in 2007. He might have hit 91 on some pitches during a game, but he wasn’t what you would call a guy who threw nearly 91. By that logic, Quintana throws 93.

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  6. gnix says:

    “In 2007, Maholm was throwing almost 91 and had better stats than Quintana did last season, too.”

    Not sure what stats you’re referring to… swinging strikes? Maholm was pretty mediocre in 2007. Aside from GB%, Quintana is considerably better in just about every metric out there.

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  7. David Wiers says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    What would Jose Quintana do if he were here today?
    He’d probably allow a walk or two, that’s what Jose Quintana do.

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  8. Zach says:

    He also lead the league in IFFB% and has close to twice the career rate of IFFB of Paul Maholm. Would be pretty explanatory in terms of superior performance, especially if you buy infield fly balls as pretty much strike outs and a repeatable skill.

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  9. brett says:

    Two great posts in two days and they’re not 2000 words each. Thanks Eno.

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  10. RJ3 says:

    His ground ball rate is only 44.5% but he gets 60% on sinker/change? That is from one extreme to the other! I can see how he outperforms his peripherals if everything is popped up or beat into the ground.

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