The Cubs need pitching. The whole world knows that. As soon as Kyle Hendricks went down to an injury and Jake Arrieta scuffled, their lack of depth became frighteningly apparent. In Jose Quintana they get a much needed pitcher. He’s been remarkably consistent, posting an ERA at or below 3.51 in each of the last four full seasons. He was worth 4.1 WARP last season, with years of 2.7 and 3.5 preceding it. The Cubs need pitchers, and he certainly is one, especially as evidenced by yesterday’s outstanding start.
But they’re getting more than that.
It’s hard—perhaps impossible—to overstate what Quintana meant to White Sox fans over the past five and a half seasons. Some of that love surely came from the fact that he was kicked around in the minors by the Yankees before finding success in the Sox system. There’s always something satisfying about finding a diamond in the rough. Especially when the diamond is a near-ace level pitcher and the rough is the most notorious team in baseball history. His path to the big leagues was something to admire, sure, but that wasn’t completely it either.
Perhaps it was Quintana’s consistency. Knowing that he would provide the team with 200 innings (he’s done so in every season since 2013) was a place of great comfort. While other teams struggled to find even one top of the rotation starter with that much longevity over the course of a season, the White Sox had a duo who did it with ease in Quintana and now-Bostonian Chris Sale. Quintana provided such a valuable talent as he limited runs at an elite level while pitching among the most innings in baseball each of the past four seasons. He’s on pace to do something similar this year. And yet, that doesn’t quite sum up what he provides either.
In today’s age of baseball analytics mentioning indefinable qualities is a surefire way to have people at your throat. The will to win, being clutch, or simply just having the “it” factor are things that are tossed away as nonsense. Those things are simply the result of random variance and there’s no credence to them. But we must remember that in the end these baseball players are still human beings. It seems that this is the place where I find solace in what makes Quintana so lovable, incredible, and admirable. He’s not loud or boasting, but he’s still a presence in the clubhouse. He isn’t labeled as a “winner,” but he has the ability to provide a great start when the team needs it. Essentially, he’s just an easy baseball player to love.
Quintana isn’t going to blow you away with his stuff. He relies on well-placed fastballs and a sharp curveball to keep hitters at bay. It’s worked remarkably well for him. He’s had a DRA under 4.00 for four-and-a-half straight seasons now. He’s done that while never having a strikeout rate rise above this year’s mark of 24.6 percent. Meanwhile, he’s posted a walk rate as low as 5.1 percent in 2015. He’s tremendous at inducing ground balls, doing so at a rate of 42.9 percent this season. All in all, he’s a pitcher who is able to provide great value without relying on his arm enduring a flaming fastball or snapping slider. As a White Sox fan I can say without a doubt that he has been a pleasure to watch. You, reading this as a Cubs fan, will find him to be a pleasure to watch. At times you may want to shout at him for leaving a rolling curveball up in the zone or missing his spot by just enough to allow a home run. You might find yourself cursing at the sky as the team somehow fails, once again, to provide enough offense to get him that elusive mark in the win column. But in the end you’re going to love him.
You can hug your prospects all you want or be terrified that the Cubs made a move in a state of panic over the division slipping from their fingers. You can argue that this move doesn’t change the team’s trajectory for the rest of the season. You will probably be wrong, but you can argue. In the end, though, you’re going to watch Jose Quintana pitch. He’s going to stand on that mound in a Cubs uniform, and he’s going to do what he’s done for his entire career. He’s going to surprise you. He’s going to throw the ball well. He’s going to make you love him. Soon those lost prospects will be a forgotten memory as Quintana delivers start after start for yet another great Chicago Cubs team.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports