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Quentin giving, and not taking away

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Carlos Quentin has summoned power from somewhere, and the Sox should be thanking him.
Carlos Quentin has summoned power from somewhere, and the Sox should be thanking him.

Carlos Quentin entered the homestand with a split that amused me -- out of his 37 RBI on the season, he only drove in three runs at home.

Quentin, though, finds amusement rather irksome. And so he began his quest to thrash and bash his numbers back toward normalcy. Over the first six games of nine in a row at U.S. Cellular Field, Quentin is 8-for-20 with two doubles and four homers, including two against Seattle on Wednesday.

Here's where Quentin stands on the leaderboard:

  • 20 doubles (tied for first)
  • 17 homers (t-3rd)
  • 37 extra-base hits (1st)
  • 45 RBI (t-3rd)
  • .596 SLG (3rd)
  • 13 HBP (1st -- and Kevin Youkilis is second with seven)

It's a little too early to say that Quentin is back to his 2008 form, but this is undoubtedly the best he's been since he punched his bat. He showed only a flash of it last season, when he propelled the Sox's 25-5 stretch with a torrid three weeks. He struggled to ride a hot streak at any other time, and his mostly off season resulted in so-so power numbers negated by terrible defense in right field.

He's writing a different story this year. He started out the season by carrying an OPS above 1.000 for the first 25 games, and he's been even better over the last three weeks. Basically, you could say that he's been capable of carrying the team for twice as long as he did last season. And the season isn't even halfway over.

More surprisingly -- his defense has been adequate at the very least! That's a drastic improvement over his "World's Worst Regular" status from 2010.

The metrics are more bullish than I would be, no matter which one you use:

  • UZR/150: -24.3 to 0.7
  • Plus-Minus: -25 to +6
  • Total Zone: -13 to +4

The results of my eye test might not be as enthusiastic, because that would require me labeling him "above-average." Ozzie Guillen still replaces him in late-game situations with Brent Lillibridge, so he's not sold, either.

Then again, observation is exceedingly difficult in this case. Nothing he does is graceful -- he even runs angry -- so when he makes a high-effort catch, it looks like he's just learning the position. Juan Pierre adds even more noise, because he's aged 15 years in the last six months. Hawk Harrelson has to qualify his "cans of corn" on balls hit to left. At least Quentin doesn't dance with routine flies.

So, does Quentin really look that much better, or is Pierre playing the role of the schlubby friend? At this point, I'm inclined to say it's more the former. Given that Quentin succeeded Jermaine Dye, we know what it's like to watch a guy flail around after moderately difficult flies. I'm not getting that same sense of dread when I see the camera cut to right field. This year, I'd say Quentin's biggest problem has been flat-footed throws.

Small sample size caveats apply, and Alex Rios serves as a great example. UZR put Rios on a Gold Glove pace after two months, but it cooled on him for the rest of the season. The other metrics also leveled off, and he seemed deserving of the downgrade. His reads just weren't as crisp or lucky.

Quentin could be due for a smattering of flies and line drives that are just out of his reach, which could send him tumbling back to negative numbers. An injury might have an even better chance at undermining him. Even accounting for regression, though, I think we can say that he's good enough for what the situation demands.

The White Sox entered the season with three DH-quality defenders -- Quentin, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. In particular, Quentin gave away so many runs in right that it practically canceled out his bat. He could barely take care of himself. Now, if he truly is playing a legitimate right field while treating American League pitching like a side of beef, he can partially mask other deficiencies, like Pierre's terrible defense or the complete absence of Dunn.

He came into the season as a take-it-or-leave-it guy, but now it's difficult to figure out where the Sox would be without him. I'm not sure if Quentin is enjoying the game any more than usual, but he's certainly taking the stress off the rest of the roster.