The characterization of Jose Quintana as Poor Jose Quintana is probably closer to a caricature than reality, even though his thunderous nine-inning no-decision against the Royals on Wednesday was practically designed to warp his most notable feature.
It's fun to imagine him as White Sox Frank Grimes, waking up at his apartment located above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley, toiling at work year after year with little recognition while Erik Johnson waltzes in and picks up three quick September victories in between a winning a Grammy and a trip to space.
In reality, the lack of personal wins doesn't seem to kill him the way many of us weep for him. In a discussion between Dan Hayes, Chris Rongey and James Fegan during the tail end of Wednesday's game, the media guys said that Quintana never takes the bait when it comes to his own win total despite the frequent questions. It's the White Sox' 41-56 record with Quintana starting over the last three years that's more bothersome.
"It doesn't diminish what Q did out there," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It comes down to we don't score enough for him. That's pretty obvious. Again, that means nothing as far as how good he is. We know how good he is and we just wish we'd score more for him."
"[Ten wins is] important for me because I’ve never had it," Quintana said. "But my point is to try to get as many wins as you can for the team. Everything is about the team. I’ll try to keep going. The season is done for me right now, but I’ll try to focus on the next season. I’ll rest right now and work hard for the next one."
And this one from David Robertson:
"I haven’t helped him out. I’ve blown a couple of his games so he should have 10. It’s unfortunate. I wish I would have been better at my job so that he had 10 wins."
At any rate, the longest no-decision of Quintana's career sealed a season that fits snugly with his 2013 and 2014 campaigns, which also ended with just nine wins.
While he gave up more hits (thanks, porous defense) and homers (thanks, regression), he offset these potential setbacks by lowering his walk rate for a third straight year. In the end, while his ERA rose by the smidgiest of smidges, he actually allowed fewer runs on the whole. That's cool.
In the process, he became the first pitcher in baseball history to have three consecutive seasons with fewer than 10 wins despite throwing at least 200 innings with an ERA+ of 110 or better. That's not so cool, but it so Q.
(Matt Cain has two, and he was perversely unlucky with the Giants in 2007 and 2008, over which he posted a 3.71 ERA and ended up with a 15-30 record to show for it.)
The only thing that's really different about this Quintana season is how he went about it. Over the last two months, he started throwing his curveball just as often as his four-seamer, and he took it to a whole new level against the Royals on Wednesday. Brooks says Quintana threw 60 curves out of his 116 pitches, compared to just 52 fastballs total (45 four-seamers). In the process, he at least seized the lead of one league leaderboard: frequency of curveballs by a starting pitcher.
Also maintaining the status quo:
*Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson, who are making the transition from WSCR to WLS ... on one-year contracts. That seems conspicuously noncommittal.
*Micah Johnson, who is undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which has been acting like a trick knee for him in the batter's box. After missing time in previous seasons due to an elbow surgery and hamstring problems, now he has a bothersome knee, all of which are proving the thing he didn't want proven this year.