Chicago Cubs: Jose Quintana bringing more questions than answers so far

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 23: Jose Quintana
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 23: Jose Quintana /

After a rocky outing Friday, fans are questioning what the Chicago Cubs really got when they traded for left-hander Jose Quintana ahead of the trade deadline.

A few weeks ago, I pointed to Jose Quintana’s number of quality starts as an encouraging sign for worried Chicago Cubs fans. But that did little to help matters. What really hurt? Another five-inning effort from Quintana in the series opener against the Phillies.

The southpaw pitched just five innings, allowing six earned on nine hits. He did strike out seven batters, but walked four. Per usual, Cubs manager Joe Maddon made little of the outing, downplaying concerns.

"“Physically, he’s fine, and his stuff is good,” Maddon said. “It’s more execution and location.”"

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Since joining the Cubs, Quintana owns a 4.50 ERA (he held a 4.49 mark with the White Sox pre-trade). That mark is nearly a full run higher than his career 3.55 earned run average. At this point, it doesn’t matter what the issue is – it matters that its fixed before Chicago starts another October postseason run.

In his last two starts, ‘Q’ has a 1.73 WHIP and 6.55 ERA. Against National League teams, the numbers are just as worrisome. In 49 2/3 innings against NL clubs this year, Quintana has allowed 35 earned runs and his WHIP is nearing 1.50. Since the calendar flipped to August, the lefty pitched past the fifth inning in just two of his five outings.

That’s not exactly what the Cubs envisioned when they sent their top two prospects to the South Side in exchange for the man who was supposed to bring consistency to the rotation.

Losing confidence

In his Cubs debut, Quintana was absolutely dominant, striking out 12. And, right there, the expectations were set with fans. For better or worse. Maddon told ESPN he sees a notable difference from that start to others he’s made.

"“The biggest difference is that curveball was really pertinent,” Maddon said about Quintana’s Cubs debut. “I just haven’t seen the breaking ball as relevant as it was in that first game. He needs to regain the feel for that pitch because otherwise they’re just sitting fastball most of the time.”"

As Maddon noted (and Quintana mentioned, as well), he has to get more comfortable with his breaking pitches. When he can locate those effectively, especially his curve, opposing hitters are off-balance. Of-late, they’re simply squaring up his fastball and driving it all over the diamond.

Chicago still owns a three-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central. As the Cubs dropped two-straight, so did the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates – keeping the pecking order the same. But Jose Quintana wasn’t brought in to be the difference-maker in a weak division race.

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He was brought in to add to the Cubs’ rotation come postseason time. And right now, you can’t be sure which Quintana will show up on any given day.