After a stellar start in which Quintana struck out 12 Oriole batters, the lefty’s four most recent starts have produced a 5.48 ERA and 5.66 FIP. Though bad on the surface, those starts still included a K/9 north of eight and a BB/9 south of three. Even better, Quintana is testing something different, and I love that he’s open-minded enough to try it.
Quintana has been experimenting with his sinker and he’s throwing nearly twice as many tailing pitches in August than in any previous month. Before August, the 28-year-old typically threw over 40 percent four-seamers and 20 percent sinkers, finishing batters with his trademark curveball. But now he’s throwing 20 percent four-seamers and 40 percent sinkers; he’s essentially reversed his approach.
By throwing more sinkers, Quintana has induced more grounders. Half of the batted balls against him have been hit on the ground, compared to ~40 percent previously.
Quintana doesn’t make batters whiff frequently, as they have consistently made above league-average contact against the lefty. His whiff rate last year, for example, was worse than 88 percent of MLB starters, though his K/9 has always hovered around league average thanks to a hook that freezes batters.
Since the former White Sox pitcher doesn’t miss that many bats, he must rely on defense, freezing batters, and weak contact to be successful. If Quintana can become more comfortable with his sinker, his run prevention might look even better going forward.
Granted, one can make the argument that this is no time to experiment, especially since the NL Central has become a circus of sorts with four teams within a series win of first place. I get that. But let’s be patient with Q here. This is could end up being valuable for the Cubs both in the short term and most definitely in the long term.