White Sox lefty lowered his ERA to 2.85 on Wednesday, but ended up with another no decision. With the White Sox out of contention, is the native of Colombia more deserving of the Cy Young Award in the American League?
Shortly after the All-Star break, I found myself in a Lids store in Manhattan talking baseball with a young 20-something year-old employee who was an avid New York Mets fan. It didn’t take long for our conversation to gravitate towards pitching, considering both our respective clubs have their share of studs at the top of the rotation.
While I beamed about how Chris Sale was on track to win the Cy Young award and a near lock for 20 wins with the White Sox, he said:
“Yeah, between him and [Jose] Quintana you guys are set.”
There it was. A baseball fan outside of the Chicago area code actually mentioning that other lefty on the South Side.
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This is truly a rarity. Jose Quintana‘s eventual inclusion in the All-Star game, a classic Quintana contest in which he pitched over an inexplicable Jose Altuve error for a scoreless frame, will hopefully be the first of many remedies in helping the southpaw become a household name.
To say Quintana isn’t one now is an understatement. Go to the White Sox website, and you’ll find a special edition Sale White Sox All-Star jersey. Todd Frazier, a home run derby participant, even has his San Diego colors ready to be snatched up. Where’s Quintana? Anything but sold out. In fact, the item doesn’t even exist.
Casually type in Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, and Melky Cabrera and you’ll find an array of jersey iterations for a pretty penny. Type in Jose Quintana, and you’ll get a link that lets you order a jersey with “Your Name”.
Unless you’re Quintana that doesn’t exactly add up.
Three years of being an above average starter who could rack up 200 innings hasn’t been enough to get Quintana noticed. One all-star appearance hasn’t been enough to get Quintana justice, that is if mock trade proposals starting with B-level prospects on social media are any indication.
What about a Cy Young Award?
Impossible, you say. Jose Quintana? A Cy Young winner? In 2016?
A month ago Chris Sale seemed like he was well on his way to the hardware. Although that estimation was couched in the fact the White Sox were still in the mix for a playoff spot and that his win total was tops in baseball.
The truth is while Jose Quintana’s stuff doesn’t sniff Sale’s slider, he’s been Chicago’s best pitcher since the middle of last season. In fact, since his first full season as a starter in 2013, Quintana has arguably been a top ten pitcher in baseball.
Here’s a look at the top 10 pitchers in fWAR since 2013:
- Clayton Kershaw
- Max Scherzer
- Corey Kluber
- David Price
- Chris Sale
- Jose Quintana
- Madison Bumgarner
- Jon Lester
- Jake Arietta
- Zack Greinke
That’s pretty good company if you ask me. Those are all household names that even the most casual fan’s ear recognizes.
So this isn’t just about 2016, this is about a track record too. But let’s talk about 2016 anyway.
Quintana currently leads the AL with a 2.85 ERA. His SO/9 sits at 7.9, just below his career high. His FIP is up a tick from last season (3.41) but that mostly stems from a slightly increased walk rate (2.08 BB/9) and a few more home runs (0.89 HR/9). Although, both marks are still considered top 25 marks in baseball respectively.
There’s been a little luck with Quintana’s season for the White Sox, as batters have a .278 BABIP and he has an 81.1 percent strand rate, but that’s also a testament to Quintana’s precision in jams and the type of contact hitters are generating off him.
Let’s talk about a place where Quintana has been very unlucky though with the White Sox, the win/loss column.
His record is currently 9-8, and unfortunately it’s not a new trend. Quintana has yet to post a ten-win season, despite pitching at an All-Star level for most of his career. Most of this has to do with a lack of run support that hints at him being snakebitten. Since 2012, Quintana leads the league in with an eye-popping 58 no-decisions.
One recent example is Wednesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, where Quintana went 7.1 innings with just one walk, five strikeouts, and a run credited to him when Nate Jones gave up an RBI double. Quintana would get the no-decision because of a tied 1-1 game. That’s a game pitchers should win 75 percent of the time.
Unfortunately, the optics of Cy Young candidacy are still heavily skewed by not only individual wins, but by the wider scope of where one’s team stands as well.
In these facets, Quintana doesn’t exactly stack up against the competition.
The first place to look for the AL Cy Young is in Cleveland where Corey Kluber leads the AL with a 4.6 fWAR, and fronts the rotation of a team gunning for the playoffs. Quintana’s fWAR is second in the AL at 3.7. Then there’s Cole Hamels; he of the 2.89 ERA and guess what, a 12-3 record on a team also primed for October.
Then there’s the Toronto Blue Jays who have Aaron Sanchez. He’s 11-2 with a 2.85 ERA and a 3.4 fWAR to go with, that’s right, an 11-2 record on a bona fide contender. Even J.A. Happ is turning in a Cy Young year for Toronto, with his 2.96 ERA and a 16-3 record, which happens to top the win column leader board.
Then there’s the guy who pitches ahead of him in Chicago. Sale is 14-5 with a 3.16 ERA, 3.5 fWAR and the “stuff” more synonymous with a Cy Young candidate. There’s an argument that Sale would be the odds on favorite to win if the White Sox were contending. This is despite the fact the lefty’s controversial new pitch-to-contact approach has also led to what has arguably been his worst season to date.
The truth is Quintana is more deserving than all these players and I’m about to show you why. All it takes is a little manipulation in the optics. Quintana’s run support per nine innings is the 5th lowest in baseball at 3.22 RS/9. This stat encapsulates the run support a pitcher gets and then adjusts it over nine innings. That makes it the perfect complement to use against ERA if we’re trying to establish a more accurately depiction of his win/loss record.
Now this is far from perfect, and merely an estimation, but when you take Quintana’s ERA with the White Sox and multiply it by his 23 starts, do the same for run support, and plug it into the pythagorean model you get a 13-10 record in games he starts in. That’s not that far off from the truth, as the White Sox are 12-11 in games which Quintana starts.
Although six no-decisions are what leave him at just 9-8, what would the White Sox’s record be in Quintana’s starts if he got the run support of say Danny Salazar (one of the leaders with 6.05 runs scored a game)? Swap out some numbers and you get a 19-4 record.
First things first, that does wonders for the White Sox own record. Instead of 54-59, they’re now 61-52, which would put them 0.5 GB in the 2nd wildcard race with the division still in sight.
As far as Quintana’s record, you can still give him five no-decisions, taking away three wins and two losses. Seeing as he’s gotten more run support in this hypothetical scenario, it’s reasonable the losses would actually decrease.
What do you think of the Quintana with Danny Salazar’s run support?
He’s 16-2 on a club firmly in the mix for a playoff spot.
Oh yeah, he’s also the Cy Young frontrunner.
Imperfect calculation and hypothetical aside, this should illustrate just how deserving Quintana actually is of taking home the Cy Young hardware for the White Sox. If you look at Quintana in a vacuum, where variables like personal and team wins are less of an influence, then he’s right up there.
The truth is he won’t win the award this year, regardless of how well he pitches. Cy Young award winners are typically not found on teams with sub .500 records and diminished playoff aspirations. Felix Hernandez winning in 2010 with a 13-12 record and a 2.27 ERA for a 75-87 Seattle Mariners team, is one of the exceptions to this rule however.
In an alternate universe though, the next time I go to that Lids store in Manhattan I can talk about Quintana’s 2016 Cy Young award with the White Sox, and people might know who I’m talking about.