Even though it went down as a team loss in a lost season, Jose Quintana found a way to make history on his own Wednesday night.
By throwing his 17th no-decision of the year, Quintana set the American League record. He probably won't get a shot to make a run at Bert Blyleven's MLB record of 20 in 1979 -- if only he didn't take a one-inning loss at Yankee Stadium the start before!
That was one feat the White Sox pointed out in their game notes. In the recap, I noted that Quintana is 0-0 in six such starts where he threw at least seven shutout innings. Those six no-decisions of 7+ shutout innings tie Joel Horlen for the most in franchise history, according to STATS by way of the Sox.
Taking the cue from those notes, I went to Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index and searched for the guys ahead of Quintana, and it really puts it into perspective just how good Quintana has been, and how little his teammates have helped him out when he's at his best.
Here's the list of all the starters with at least seven no-decisions in which they pitched at least seven shutout innings, along with the number of seasons they needed to get six of them. You'll see that all of these guys were good, and most of them were (or are) great.
Out of all these guys, Pete Harnisch is the only one to have six such games over a two-year period, which is kind of fitting, because he's also the least remarkable pitcher on this list. Given the fragility of pitchers, if Quintana were to put together a Harnisch-like career, it'd probably be a pretty good outcome, especially considering his background.
Then again, maybe it's time to separate Quintana from the past that allowed the White Sox to take him from the Yankees free of charge.
Quintana is just 24 years old, and he's improved his peripherals to the point where he doesn't need to make additional strides in order to be believably good. It was a different story when he posted a 3.76 ERA while striking out five batters per nine innings. We saw some of his unlikely Houdini acts last year, so while the chorus chanting "FIP FIP FIP" was predictable and annoying, I didn't feel compelled to rail against it. Regression makes fools of us all.
The simple FIP case no longer applies. Quintana's sum is still a little greater than its parts according to FanGraphs, but its WAR valuation (3.5 WAR) calls him the 14th-most valuable pitcher in the American League, which is a pretty strong statement. B-Ref's WAR goes further, giving him 5.2 WAR, good for sixth-best in the AL.
Either way, he's an asset, and one who has varied his approach enough to ward off the sophomore slump. His arm-side command improved, he's been using the high fastball as a knockout pitch, and he's mixed in changeups and curves more often. His off-speed offerings aren't great, but they're keeping hitters honest right now.
Really, Quintana only has to establish durability in order to secure his very-goodness, and he's on the right track. Some early inefficiency problems put him behind the pace in his quest for 200 innings, and the rain-shortened outing in New York and the six-man rotation will leave him short in all likelihood despite a second-half rally.
That he's been able to sustain his performance after the All-Star break is what's important this time around. He wore down last year, posting a 5.30 ERA over August and September with opponents hitting .310/.391/.476 against him. That gave the regression crowd more ammo. This time around, Quintana has a 3.38 ERA since the start of August, and he's keeping hitters off base at any above-average rate (.256/.305/.411).
This is a longwinded way of saying that if he keeps pitching the way he does, the wins will have to show up at some point. However, should he keep pitching to the (0-0) score, he could find himself in the company of true greatness in a fraction of the innings. Maybe he doesn't need durability after all.