Is he an ace? Is he a No. 2? An elite No. 3? While these labels have been thrown around when discussing newly-acquired starter Jose Quintana for over a year, one thing’s for sure: The Cubs got a really good pitcher that can help them in 2017 and beyond. The addition of Quintana in the Cubs starting rotation is a breath of fresh air for a Cubs’ staff that had been pretty stale going into the All-Star break, and he showed a glimpse of what he can do during his 12 strikeout performance Sunday afternoon.
While the Cubs would not have hesitated to pull the trigger on a trade for Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer, whose availability is still in question, the fact that they got the left-handed Quintana out of all the starters on the trade market is a benefit especially when it comes to the teams the Cubs could potentially face in October.
When you look at the landscape of great hitters in baseball this season, especially left-handed hitters, many of them are in the National League. So far this year, 11 of the top-22 NL OPS leaders are left-handed and eight of those players are on contending teams including Cody Bellinger, Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Jake Lamb, Corey Seager and more. With thunderous bats like that to deal with, it puts an emphasis on having quality left-handed starters.
Quintana has been able to neutralize left-handed hitters in his career, as opposing lefties have hit just .253 with an OPS of .682, and he has basically replicated those career averages this season.
If you were to go into a five-game or seven game series with the Nationals, Dodgers, or even the Rockies, you would circle the names previously listed as guys you don’t want to let beat you. You’d have a better chance of winning a series with two left-handed starters than just one left-handed starter.
You want Bellinger, Blackmon, Harper, Murphy, and Seager to hit against left-handed starters as many times as possible in that series. Yes, as elite hitters, they’ll find a way to get a few hits vs. LHP, but you would much rather see them hitting lefty on lefty. Harper has an excellent .310 batting average vs. LHP and while you wouldn’t consider that much of an advantage, I would take his .448 slugging percentage vs. LHP over his ridiculous .662 percentage vs. RHP any day.
Having two quality southpaws in a rotation is something not many teams have. One of the reasons the Dodgers have wreaked havoc and will continue to wreck havoc on the National League is their 1-2 punch of lefties Clayton Kershaw and the surprisingly unhittable Alex Wood.
Before they can get to October, the Cubs first have to get past the Milwaukee Brewers, who I wrote about a few weeks ago. The Brewers sit 3 1/2 games in front of the North Siders and have continued to play well despite many not believing they can hold on to their lead in the division. The Brew Crew’s lineup is anchored by Travis Shaw (.924 OPS and 66 RBI) and Eric Thames (.932 OPS with 24 homers) who are both also in the NL top-22 OPS leaders. Having Quintana to help quiet those bats could mean a lot going down the stretch.
Having a potential playoff rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks is solid and could cause problems for many lineups. Having one dominant south paw is a plus, but having two is an added luxury and a big advantage for a team that could use some good fortune down the stretch.
Lead photo courtesy Evan Habeeb—USA Today Sports