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Starting Pitcher Rankings: New heights for Jose Quintana

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First-time All-Star is new to the top 20, while White Sox teammate Chris Sale maintains spot in the top 10

Harry How/Getty Images

During his time as a starting pitcher, Jose Quintana's excellence has been obscured by win-loss records, both individual and team.

He's part of the reason I'm drawn to Bill James' Starting Pitcher Rankings, as they have been more indicative of Quintana's quality. The rankings are James' attempt to sort starting pitchers like one would golfers or tennis players, giving track record a proper weight against recency bias. I reviewed the rankings at both the All-Star break and end of 2015, but in case you missed them, here's the explanation from The Bill James Handbook 2015:

The system is based on Game Scores. An average Game Score is 50; a really, really bad game is zero, and a fantastically good game is 100. 30% of the Game Score is added to the player's score every time he pitches, so that a pitcher picks up 15 points if he just has a decent, ordinary type game -- a borderline Quality Start, let's say. Each starting pitcher starts at 300 when he makes his first major league start (300.000), and a player can't go below 300.0, but with each start he also loses 3% of his previous score -- so, for example, if a pitcher racks up a "50" in his first major league start, his score goes from 300 to 306; 300, times .97, plus 50 times .30.

As long as a pitcher pitches well, his score moves upward from 300. When he pitches poorly, his score moves down. There is more to the system than that, of course; this isn't the place to get into every detail. There are park adjustments, and a pitcher's score goes down if he doesn't start on schedule, and goes down more rapidly if he doesn't make a start for several weeks. The won-lost record doesn't play into it; pitching 7 innings with 2 runs in a win is the same as pitching 7 innings with 2 runs in a loss.

The emphasis on the last line is mine. In other words, it's Quintana-friendly in a baseball world that's becoming Quintana-friendlier every day. Ned Yost says Quintana is scheduled to pitch the fifth inning of tonight's All-Star Game, which is a first for the lefty.

Chris Sale is starting for the American League, which is new honor for the five-time All-Star. Sale is still considerably ahead of Quintana in the rankings, but the gap is closer than it's been in previous years. Let's review:

Chris Sale

Start April 15 May 1 May 15 June 1 June 15 July 1 Break
Rank 7 7 4 3 5 8 6 9
Score 511.1 513.8 537.2 549.4 548.5 537.9 549.0 537.0


Pitchers ahead at the start of the season:
Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, David Price, Madison Bumgarner,.

Pitchers ahead now: Kershaw, Bumgarner, Scherzer, Greinke, Arrieta, Price, Johnny Cueto, Corey Kluber

Observations: Of the pitchers ahead of Sale, only Cueto started the season outside the top nine (13th), replacing Dallas Keuchel, who slipped from ninth to 18th. There's a lot of separation between Sale and the top three (Scherzer is at 579.6), but he's still within striking distance of the top AL pitcher, which is Price at 548.8. We'll see if Sale is compelled to alter his changeup-light approach after getting punched in the face by the Braves. After winning 14 of his first 16 decisions, he probably wasn't going to be convinced to change until the league told him.

Jose Quintana

Start April 15 May 1 May 15 June 1 June 15 July 1 Break
Rank 23 19 16 14 15 15 17 16
Score 460.6 467.1 482.0 497.0 500.4 498.4 496.1 501.5


Started with: Chris Archer, Francisco Liriano.

Is now among: Julio Teheran, Marco Estrada.

Observations: Quintana is the king of the steady climb. He started last season at No. 27 before climbing to No. 21. Then he started this season at No. 23 and has climbed to No. 16. Less than one point separates him from his fellow Colombian Teheran, while there's a little more separation with Estrada, whose stock if skyrocketing. He entered the season a respectable 45th. Quintana is more tortoise than hare.

Carlos Rodon

Start April 15 May 1 May 15 June 1 June 15 July 1 Break
Rank 101
82 83 88 86 85 81 91
Score 363.4 378.6 382.9 384.1 395.2 399.9 410.0 403.5


Started with: C.J. Wilson, Joe Kelly.

Is now among: Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Cashner.

Observations: Eovaldi and Cashner are just about the perfect pitchers to flank Rodon at this section of the rankings, as both are pitchers from whom more was expected. Rodon has the edge in that he's younger and far less experienced, but he's struggled to put his game together this year. It'd help if he had more support. We know he's lost a ton of strikes, but now Mark Simon from ESPN Stats and Info shares this:

James Shields

Start April 15 May 1 May 15 June 1 June 15 July 1 Break
Rank 21 20 18 18 25 44 51 47
Score 461.5 465.4 474.6 483.0 470.7 450.7 444.1 450.6


Started with: Sonny Gray, Archer.

Is now among: Gio Gonzalez, Jake Odorizzi

Observations: This was the one I wanted to see, and yeeeeeeeeeeep. Only Tyson Ross has had a bigger tumble from those preseason heights (from 19th to 60th), and that's because he's been hurt. The good news is that he's steadied out over the past month.

Miguel Gonzalez

Start April 15 May 1 May 15 June 1 June 15 July 1 Break
Rank NR 81 97 91 91 92 98 84
Score NR 384.4 374.7 380.2 388.9 392.3 392.7 407.4


Started with: Not sure. Maybe because he wasn't on a major league roster to start the season? He finished the 2015 season at No. 79, so that's probably the neighborhood.

Is now among: Ubaldo Jimenez, Kenta Maeda.

Observations: Mat Latos topped out at No. 84, while John Danks started the season at 79th. Both had slid back into the triple digits before they were designated for assignment. Gonzalez was replaced by guys like Latos during his time in Triple-A, so now he's regained that ground.

It's worth noting that Gonzalez was accomplished enough during his Baltimore days to start the 2015 season at No. 41. A down season and injury caused him to slide nearly 40 spots, but if he's fully healthy and featuring a new wrinkle, he stands a chance at showing some second-half upside. However, even if Gonzalez only pitches well enough to orbit around the 80th spot, the White Sox rotation will have received enough production from its back end to succeed. As always, it'll be more about the heavy lifting done by the guys toward the top of the rotation.