I'm googling "jose quintana fangraphs" because I know how to party, and the first page of results pretty much summarizes the general level of awareness regarding the White Sox starter.
In chronological order:
- June 18, 2012: Keep an eye on Jose Quintana?
- July 17, 2013: Jose Quintana's steady improvement
- Dec. 30, 2013: What does Jose Quintana do?
- March 27: 2014: What is a Jose Quintana?
- July 11, 2014: Jose Quintana is better than you think
- Dec. 16, 2014: Jose Quintana: Stud or dud?
That succession of headlines makes sense at the start. I understood why analysts were ready to discount Quintana's rookie season, because he didn't show any particular skill that leads to sustainable success. I could kinda fathom how non-Sox fans might be skeptical even after his sudden improvement in 2013.
But his numbers either stabilized or improved after another 200-inning season. Maybe that isn't enough to shed the "underrated" tag, but if enough people start saying he's underrated, then he's probably adequately rated.
Those wheels seemed to be in motion with the "better than you think" headline, and why not? There are only 10 AL pitchers with more innings from 2013 to 2014, and only seven who have contributed more fWAR. There aren't many pitchers who have been as effective over as many innings. He's not terribly different from Jon Lester, who received a $155 million contract from the Cubs (and Quintana has taken the early head-to-head lead this year).
Then December rolls around. Lester gets a six-year deal and it's seen as the cost of doing business. Quintana receives those same groan-inducing "Stud or dud?" headlines. Odd.
Stranger still, he has a habit of being overshadowed at home. When the White Sox traded for Jeff Samardzija, he became Chris Sale's tag-team partner, even though Quintana had outpitched Smarch the last two seasons. When Sale wasn't ready to start the season, Samardzija was named the Opening Day starter. Samardzija got the "Shark Cage" cheering section.
Smash cut to Tuesday. Here's 2015 White Sox first-round pick Carson Fulmer talking about his impressions of the club during his introductory conference call:
I look up to [Sale] a great ton. I know they have Samardzija and they have [Carlos] Rodon. It's just a bunch of guys that I watch pitch a lot, and I have so much respect for them ...
Listening to him answer that question, I simultaneously thought, "He probably should mention Jose Quintana," and, "He's never going to mention Jose Quintana."
It's just how it is, and Quintana seems content with himself -- at least as much as his performance reflects. If you're still wondering what a Jose Quintana is and does in 2015, he's giving an opportunity to jump on board every fifth day.
His 4.00 ERA doesn't quite reflect that yet. A disaster start against Detroit on April 19 hiked his ERA all the way up to 8.40 after three starts. Nevertheless, he's been grinding away at it, posting a 2.88 ERA over his last nine starts, including his seven-inning, one-run gem against the Astros on Wednesday.
With a couple more good-not-great starts, Quintana will be back to where he usually is from that perspective. He's basically already there in terms of everything else, being the chairman of his own reenactment society.
Look at his peripherals:
Look at his pitch mix and velocity:
|2014||62.5% (92.2 mph)||24.6% (80.9 mph)||12.9% (86.3)|
|2015||62.2% (92.1 mph)||26.7% (81.0 mph)||11.0% (86.7)|
Look at his run support per nine innings:
- 2013: 3.76
- 2014: 3.91
- 2015: 2.33
Same as it ever was, but more so. This is probably the driving factor behind Quintana's lack of national renown. He's pitching very well, but his position players aren't getting him to All-Star Games or postseason appearances.
Yet that doesn't explain it all, because Samardzija suffered from an even more extreme lack of support over the bulk of his starting career, and has fewer wins to show for his work. I posted this chart before the season:
Samardzija has only closed the victory gap by one in 2015, while Quintana has extended his lead over his rotationmate in other areas. Fun fact: Samardzija has allowed more homers this year (11) than Quintana allowed all of last season.
The more you think about Samardzija and Sale and even Rodon, the more you realize everything Quintana has been makes him rather impervious to popularity:
He arrived with zero hype.
He doesn't have a signature aesthetic.
He doesn't provide PITCHf/x or GIF porn.
He doesn't get the run support to get to 10 wins.
He hasn't pitched for a good or popular team the last three years.
He isn't a go-to quote (although he does answer in English).
He's not a potential free agent or feasible trade target.
Oog. Quintana needs a brand manager. He needs to get social and be viral. He needs to be part of the conversation while also disrupting it. He needs to be Snapchatting.
Or maybe he just needs some damn runs so more people can start enjoying his outings all the way to the end. His general profile will rise when the White Sox' stock does. At least that five-year, $26.5 million contract extension gives the Sox plenty of time and money to give Quintana his due.