Jose Quintana: Underrated Marvel

David Schoenfield of ESPN writes about how unsung Jose Quintana is:

Anyway, it’s hard for Quintana to get much attention pitching in the same rotation as Chris Sale. It doesn’t help that the White Sox haven’t exactly been in the spotlight these past two years.

This article is a month old, and it doesn’t even matter. Quintana has been just as good since. His 8–10 record hurts his reputation, but dig deeper and he is one of the 10 best starters in the league. He is 8th in fWAR, which is Fangraph’s version of Wins Above Replacement. This means from a pure value standpoint, he has been the 8th best starter in the AL this year. He is 6th in FIP (fielding independent pitching). This stat is designed to take all factors of fielding out of the picture, so that bad fielding, bad positioning, bad whatever behind him, is taken out. It’s basically composed of walks, strikeouts and home runs, and is based on the ERA scale to make it easy for people to understand the number. Quintana’s is 2.78. So why is his ERA 3.30? Another nerdy stat, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) which is a measure of how many times a ball was hit in play that the hitter reached base. It is basically the batting average stat but with home runs and strikeouts removed from the equation. The league average is generally around .290, Quintana’s is .311. That means that he has been “unlucky” in that more of the balls hit against him have dropped in for hits.

Quintana’s walk and strikeout rates are not as high as a lot of the other guys near the top in fWAR. Of the top 10 guys, he has the 9th best strikeout rate, and 8th best walk rate. His minuscule home run rate is what makes him so useful. At 0.39 he has the 2nd best in the entire American League behind Garrett Richards (0.27) and he is well ahead of the third place guy (Dallas Keuchel, 0.52) so far. The problem with this stat longterm is that it is probably unsustainable (his career number is 0.78, and it was 1.04 in 2013).

Despite all of that, Quintana has still easily been one of the top 10 starters in the AL this season. Even if he regresses a bit, he could still be in the top 15, and the sad part is that almost no one has noticed.