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White Sox Thu Jul 24 2014
Always a quality pitcher for the Sox, Quintana has raised his game to another level this season. The lefty starter has a 3.23 ERA and a 123 ERA-plus this season, both career highs. Just over the last month, Quintana has a 1.77 ERA and has held opponents to a .489 OPS in his last six starts. This has been big for a Sox team that's still lurking just under .500 and is searching for pitching from people other than Chris Sale.
Quintana's surge isn't an accident either. It's not some byproduct of good fortune. His FIP is quite a bit lower than his ERA, which suggests that he's been unlucky this year. Quintana is succeeding when it comes to handling the three true outcomes.
His strikeout rate is up fairly significantly -- two years ago it seemed like he was a pitch-to-contact guy, but now he's got a K/9 rate of 8.32 and a strikeout percentage of 22.6 -- both strong figures. Along with that, his walk rate has remained the same, and his home run rate is way down. He's allowing 0.43 home runs per nine innings, which is the sixth-best mark in the league. Since strikeout and home run rates have so much stock put in them (because it removes luck and the variable of defense), this is pretty significant stuff.
How is he doing this? Quintana is throwing his cutter much less than he used to and throwing his changeup and curveball more, but his velocity is about the same across the board. His curveball has had the biggest jump in terms of value, going from a below average pitch to an above average pitch, seemingly because he's been able to locate it better. He's more precise with it, locating it tighter on the corners to both lefties and righties.
For Quintana, this has all materialized into some pretty good games, including allowing three hits over seven innings against the Blue Jays in late June and striking out 10 Mariners earlier this month. He's been reliable all season as well, with 15 quality starts and at least 86 pitches in every game (and in that game, he still went seven innings and left with a 13-3 lead). He hasn't missed any time this season.
Yesterday, Quintana didn't have as many strikeouts as usual (only three) but he went seven innings, generated 16 ground balls and got the Royals to hit into four double plays. He allowed only one run, which the Royals scored in the first inning. Quintana wasn't the day's story, but that was through no fault of his own. He's handled everything he can control this year.