When the Pirates inked veteran starter Jose Quintana to a one-year, $2MM deal final November, it generated little fanfare. After a few tough seasons, Quintana was now not seen as a dependable beginning possibility and expectations on the 33-year-old had been minimal. Nonetheless, the Pirates’ modest guess on Quintana paid off handsomely, because the southpaw will go down as one of many higher free agent signings of the 2021-22 offseason.
Quintana turned in 165 2/3 innings of two.93 ERA ball throughout 32 begins, 20 of these got here with the Pirates earlier than he was traded to the division rival Cardinals on the commerce deadline. Solely 16 pitchers had a greater fWAR than Quintana’s 4.0 whole, and Quintana will definitely get some votes as NL Comeback Participant of the Yr.
Quintana has been a workhorse for a lot of his profession, starting with 4 straight seasons of 200+ innings with the White Sox from 2013-16. Rather more than simply an innings-eater, Quintana posted a 3.35 ERA over that four-season stretch, highlighted by a 2016 season that noticed him make the All-Star staff and end tenth in AL Cy Younger Award voting. The White Sox weren’t in rivalry throughout this era, and with a rebuild in progress, Quintana turned one of the crucial sought-after arms in the marketplace. The Sox held onto the left-hander till July 2017, earlier than dealing Quintana to the crosstown Cubs for 4 prospects — together with Dylan Stop and Eloy Jimenez.
It’s a commerce that also generates some laborious emotions in Wrigleyville, as Jimenez and Stop have blossomed into stars for the White Sox and Quintana’s manufacturing took a step again as a Cub. He posted a 4.24 ERA over his 439 2/3 innings with the Cubs from 2017-20, and thumb surgical procedure and a lat damage restricted him to simply 10 innings within the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, marking the primary vital damage absences of Quintana’s profession.
Hitting free company within the 2020-21 offseason, the Angels signed Quintana to a one-year, $8MM deal, hoping that he may bounce again and assist solidify the rotation. Sadly, Quintana pitched his means out of their rotation altogether with an ugly 8.23 ERA in ten begins. He fared barely higher of their bullpen, however the Angels lower ties with the lefty in August 2021, and Quintana didn’t have a lot success in 5 aid appearances with the Giants after San Francisco claimed him off waivers.
So, the place did it go improper? For one, the 2021 model of Quintana was a statistical outlier from the remainder of his profession, as each his strikeout price (28.6%) and stroll price (11.8%) had been far above his profession averages. Chasing the additional missed bats appeared to make Quintana a bit extra of a predictable pitcher, particularly since he additionally reduce on using his slider and began throwing a (principally ineffective) changeup extra usually. Because of this, batters had been teeing off on Quintana’s providing, leading to a career-worst residence run price.
To be honest, Quintana was additionally hampered by some dangerous luck in 2021, as his 3.94 SIERA took a much more favorable view of his efficiency than his 6.43 ERA. Whereas Quintana didn’t assist himself by permitting extra homers and a ton of laborious contact, he additionally didn’t get a lot help from the Angels’ mediocre protection, as evidenced by his large .378 BABIP. (Angels pitchers had a collective .305 BABIP in 2021, the third-highest whole in all of baseball.)
With a greater Pirates protection behind him, Quintana received again on observe this season. Quintana caught with roughly the identical mixture of pitchers, although he has reduce on his fastball utilization and leaned extra closely on his off-speed stuff. The decrease fastball utilization turned Quintana’s four-seamer into one of the crucial efficient pitches thrown by any hurler in 2022, with a -17 Run Worth in keeping with Statcast.
Quintana’s strikeout (20.2%) and stroll (6.9%) charges additionally returned to round his profession norms, and his issues with the lengthy ball virtually fully disappeared — his 5.3% homer price was the bottom of his profession, and his eight whole residence runs allowed had been the bottom of any certified pitcher in baseball. After ending in solely the sixth percentile of all pitchers in hard-contact share in 2021, Quintana zoomed again above common in 2022, as his 35.8% mark put him within the 68th percentile.
This manufacturing led to loads of curiosity on the commerce deadline, and St. Louis ended up touchdown each Quintana and reliever Chris Stratton in alternate for right-hander Johan Oviedo and minor league third baseman Malcom Nunez. It was a pleasant return for the Pirates for a rental participant, and the Cardinals had been absolutely happy with their finish of the deal. Quintana posted a 2.01 ERA over his 62 2/3 innings after the commerce, serving to the Playing cards seize the NL Central. The southpaw then added 5 1/3 shutout innings in Sport 1 of the Wild Card Sequence, although a ninth-inning bullpen meltdown price St. Louis the victory.
Given this success, Quintana seems like a stable guess to obtain a multi-year contract in free company this winter, although loads of elements will weigh into the dimensions of that deal. He turns 34 in January, and groups gained’t overlook about his 2020-21 struggles simply because he turned issues round this yr. As MLBTR’s Anthony Franco famous in his preview of the Cardinals’ offseason, Quintana is an choice to return to St. Louis, however the Cardinals could decide to pursue cheaper pitching choices in favor of an even bigger splash elsewhere on the roster. Nonetheless, Quintana’s return to type makes him a horny goal for any variety of groups who want high quality and sturdiness within the rotation.