If you’ve followed my hockey writing at all, you know that’s a weird sentence for me to write. But we’ll get past it. The past 48 hours have seen a lot of gas pockets bellowing due to Jose Quintana’s wonky start to against the Braves and his wonky start to the season. Now, it’s not usually like me to write a piece in direct opposition to another personality… wait, no, that’s exactly what I do. So I’m inspired to write this because of things like this, or this, that have various rashes breaking out around my being.
Now I know better than to really get riled up about anything live-action King Hippo (David Kaplan) has to say. And The Athletic using him as a reference point smacks of pandering or a cheap joke, or both, and it’s probably not worth worrying about. So let’s get to this idea that Q hasn’t been good and the Cubs really should have traded for Justin Verlander.
Here’s something for you: In 2017, Quintana and Verlander were basically the same! I know, it doesn’t sound right. Maybe it’s the lack of Kate Upton or name recognition or the shrine to Eloy Jiménez that more Cubs fans had built in their bedrooms without actually ever seeing him play than you ever would have thought. But let me take you through it:
|José Quintana||Justin Verlander|
Isn’t that weird? I know what Dr. Honeydew would say here if he were hit over the head with a tire iron: that Verlander’s starts with the Astors dominate Q’s with the Cubs. And that might be true (we’ll check in a second), except I don’t know what Quintana being better down the stretch brings the Cubs. Winning the division, like, two days earlier? It wouldn’t be beating the Nationals in less time, and we’ll get to that, because Q was brilliant in his start in the Division Series. But let’s look post-trade.
Verlander was indeed brilliant, with a 35.8 percent strikeout percentage and 4.2 percent walk percentage, with a 2.69 FIP. And these were all better marks than Quintana put up with the Cubs. Though why Quintana would have to apologize for a 28.3 percent strikeout rate, 6.1 percent walk rate, and 3.25 FIP, I haven’t any idea. Also, the Cubs got 14 starts out of Quintana whereas Verlander only made five for the Astros. So sample size might play a role.
Don’t worry, I’ve anticipated the next move: postseason. You remember Verlander staring everyone down and the hitters turning into puddles of funny-colored water. As mentioned above, Q held the Nationals without an earned run in Game 3 in the NLDS, which the Cubs won. Then from there, let me take you through what he was asked: To come out of relief in Game 5 three days later, which he’d never done. His wife have a medical scare on the flight to Los Angeles, causing the plane to be grounded. A mere two days after his first-ever relief appearance, to start against a lineup that had been waiting at home for days that had only managed 104 wins. Considering all that, two runs over five innings isn’t exactly an outing he’d have to apologize to his ancestors for. Yes, fine, he got rocked in Game 5, but after all that? Were the Cubs really going to win that series?
Here’s another thing for you. Adding Verlander’s $16 million more in additional salary almost certainly doesn’t leave the Cubs the room to sign Yu Darvish (oh right, we’re writing him off already too six weeks into his first season in town because we’re oh so reasonable). Maybe they don’t even nab Tyler Chatwood, whatever you make of that. So what would the rotation look like then, even if you have a problem with it now? And even if the Cubs did all that, they certainly would claim not to have room to make the splash for Harper or Machado in the winter because… they’d be over the luxury tax this year and probably wouldn’t be in the mood for the repeat offender penalty that has all the subtlety of the anvil on Wile E. Coyote’s head. And we know what kind of bellicose grunt folks would let out if the Cubs didn’t make either of those moves.
I can’t sit here and argue that Quintana’s start has been good, or even acceptable. It looks an awful lot like his start last year. He walked a ton of hitters in April ’17, to the tune of 4.3 per nine innings. Then he straightened out. That doesn’t mean he should make writing off April every year a habit, but it’s something we’ve seen before.
This is possibly the worst aspect of sports journalism today. Where a small sample size is the excuse to trot out the “He Who Yells Loudest Is Smartest” tactic, especially to gloat over something that hasn’t even been proven remotely true. It’s recency bias on the kind of chemicals that turned Bruce Banner into The Hulk. And the bigger the bullhorn these giblets get, the worse it gets. You shouldn’t stand for it.
Now, if Q would start pitching well to help my cause, I would be appreciative.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports