Jose Quintana is the unluckiest pitcher alive

5 Comments

After opening the game with six scoreless innings, White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was the victim Wednesday when Tyler Flowers’ plate block opened the floodgates for the Giants. It turned what should have been a clear out into the Giants’ first run of the game, and they went on to score seven times in the seventh inning, with four of those runs being charged to Quintana. Since it couldn’t even technically be ruled an error on Flowers or anyone else, all of the runs were earned.

It was just the latest bad break for baseball’s unluckiest pitcher. Quintana is 6-9 this year despite a 3.14 ERA that ranks 14th in the AL (he’d probably be 10th instead if Flowers could have waited to shift his foot over).

In 2013, Quintana was 17th in the AL with a 3.51 ERA, yet finished just 9-7 in his 33 starts.

As a rookie in 2012, Quintana was 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 22 starts and three relief appearances.

Add it all up and we have a guy with a sub-.500 career record, despite a 3.46 ERA. That ERA translates into a 119 ERA+, making him one of the six best starters since 1901 with at least 40 decisions and a sub-.500 record.

Johnny Rigney – 122 ERA+ – 64-64, 3.59 ERA from 1937-47
Jim Scott – 121 ERA+ – 107-114, 2.30 ERA from 1909-17
Ned Garvin – 120 ERA+ – 39-65, 2.70 ERA from 1901-1904 (58-97, 2.72 ERA from 1896-1904)
Thornton Lee – 119 ERA+ – 117-124, 3.56 ERA from 1933-48
Jhoulys Chacin – 119 ERA+ – 38-48, 3.78 ERA from 2009-14
Jose Quintana – 119 ERA+ – 21-22, 3.46 ERA from 2012-14

It must be something about the White Sox. Rigney and Scott spent their entire careers with the team, and Lee was there throughout his prime. Even Garvin spent most of 1902 with the team. Chacin seems destined to land there eventually… or maybe he’ll just turn into a winner.

For Quintana, though, wins and losses aren’t the whole picture. It’s also all of the non-decisions. He’s been involved in the decision in just 43 of his 80 starts, which is unique throughout history. Among active starters, only Brandon Beachy joins Quintana in getting a decision in fewer than 55 percent of his starts, and Beachy has started barely half as many games (25 decisions, 46 starts).

Quintana has received a decision in 54 percent of his career starts. AL starters as a whole this year are at 71 percent. The next lowest mark of anyone active with more starts than him belongs to Chris Young, who has received a decision in 62 percent of his 182 starts. And most of the high no-decision guys get that way because they don’t work deep into games. Quintana, though, has averaged 6.05 innings per start in his career. The AL average this year is 5.94 innings per start.

So, with all of those no decisions, Quintana has won just 26.25 percent of his career starts, something that really sets him apart from the earlier group. Even Chacin has won 35 percent of his career starts.

Quintana is far and away the best pitcher ever to win fewer than 30 percent of his starts.

Quintana – 119 ERA+ – 21 W, 80 GS
Henderson Alvarez – 108 ERA+ – 23 W, 80 GS
Tomo Ohka – 105 ERA + – 51 W, 178 GS
Tom Cheney – 104 ERA+ – 19 W, 71 GS
John Thomson – 104 ERA+ – 63 W, 212 GS
Masato Yoshii – 101 ERA+ – 32 W, 118 GS

But it’s also the remarkable consistency. Quintana hasn’t won 30 percent of his starts in any of his three years to date. Since 2000, there are 45 pitchers, minimum 120 innings pitched, to win fewer than 30 percent of their starts with an ERA+ of 110. Quintana is three of them. Ranked by ERA+, his 2014 is 13th on the list, his 2013 is 19th and his 2012 is 27th.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

Getty Images
25 Comments

Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.