The second instance of Jose Quintana logging eight shutout innings, and watching the bullpen blow the one-run lead he spent the whole game ardently defending naturally provoked debate about the proper usage of the surprise rookie sensation.
It was helped along by this quote Ventura gave explaining why Sale was left in the 8th inning of a close game against the Royals where he did not look himself.
“It was his game,” Ventura said. “He finds a way to get himself into trouble and out of trouble, too.”
While Sale’s health and durability is being consistently monitored, his skill level is a source of much less doubt, and if his velocity flagging didn’t set off everyone’s panic alarms, the move might have attracted less criticism for its strategy.
As excitement builds with every performance, and everyone becomes more convinced of his abilities, the question of when Jose Quintana becomes deserving of more trust starts to get repeated more frequently.
His style makes him a battleground for saberists and traditionalists, as advanced metrics like FIP, True ERA, and SIERA think his lack of strikeouts indicate that his 2.30 ERA is anywhere between one to two runs below his true skill level, while eye-test advocates enjoy his less-measurable ability to bust righties inside and stay composed with runners on.
But while the scouting community at large has stayed wary and doubtful of the youngster…
— Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) July 14, 2012
…the oh-so restrictive White Sox have dealt him the strongest praise.
“He’s just dazzling,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s done everything we have asked, and you let him go out there. He’s a lot more mature than you would expect.”
“He has a lot of poise for such a young kid,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We’re lucky to have him.”
Working eight brilliant innings only to be pulled so that the ace of the bullpen can pitch the last inning in a tight game is hardly a rookie dishonor, either.
Just last season, Ozzie “had his starters throw four complete games in a row in the ALCS” Guillen didn’t let John Danks go out for the 9th against the A’s with 109 pitches, despite him having a three-run lead. As a result, Danks had to watch Sale, Crain, and Thornton blow the lead from the dugout.
It was remarkable, since just two days earlier, Guillen hadn’t allowed Mark Buehrle go out for the 9th with a 1-0, despite him carrying a 99-pitch, two-hitter at the time.
If Buehrle being managed by Guillen isn’t immune from the high-leverage hook, what chance does Quintana have? Especially since Buehrle is who he gets compared to when his advocates get most carried away with their admiration for his peripherals-defying, location-dependent magic.
There’s a reason we celebrated Buerhle so much, and it went beyond his brisk pace, durability, fielding, long tenure or tarp slides, it’s because he was a true marvel. He couldn’t strike hitters out, his stuff was less than remarkable, but he succeeded because his command and pitchability almost never slumped, and we didn’t have to question it because he entered at a time where White Sox pitching had no other options, and got a chance to prove he could do it for years on end.
Despite the raised stakes, Quintana’s opportunity to prove he’s legit is here nonetheless. Rather than expect Quintana to be afforded the privileges of the most overpowering White Sox starter of the Kenny Williams era, perhaps it would better to to hope he follows the path of his most favorable comparable, and continues to receive the opportunity that someone of his pedigree and style is fortunate to have come upon.