Chicago Cubs: Jose Quintana looking to expand repertoire

(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs veteran southpaw Jose Quintana is making a concerted effort to increase usage on his changeup in 2019.

The Chicago Cubs rotation is stacked with veteran pitchers entering the twilight of their careers, and Jose Quintana is no exception. While still only 30-years-old, Quintana is preparing to begin his eighth year in the MLB. He has worked over 170 innings in all but one of those years, his rookie year in 2012.

Like Jon Lester and Cole Hamels, Quintana knows he’s going to have to adapt his game as he grows less likely to dominate opposing lineups with his pure stuff.

"“My focus was on my changeup,” Quintana said via The Athletic ($). ” I’m trying to use that pitch more with my stuff. My strengths are my fastball and breaking ball, but I want to be better with my changeup. That feels really good right now and I’m going to use it in a lot of games.”"

What does it mean?

Quintana currently relies heavily on his fastball and curveball. In 2018, Quintana used a fastball, curveball and changeup, but only threw the changeup 6.8 percent of the time. His fastball was used a whopping 50.2 percent of the time. Quintana and his new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy have worked during the early going of spring training to build Quintana’s confidence in his changeup, in order to get the pitch to a point where he wouldn’t stray away from using it in big situations.

"“A lot of times you’ll see him, because of the way his fastball plays, he gets a lot of foul balls,” Hottovy said. “On pitches where a lot of guys would get balls in play, he gets foul balls. So if there’s a pitch that can help shrink some of those long at-bats, a lot of times it’s having that pitch that you’re like, ‘Man, if we just had a changeup we could use right here, the at-bat’s over.’ Because you just have a guy so sped up so hard inside – fastball, fastball, hip shot, curveball. And now, having that one you can consistently throw even in the strike zone just to end the at-bat is huge.”"

By increasing his usage on the changeup, Quintana could also allow himself the luxury of not necessarily needing to blow anyone away or maintain pinpoint accuracy with his fastball. With an aging hurler, deception becomes paramount, and there’s no better way for a pitcher to create deception than to establish a changeup.

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Diminishing velocity

In Quintana’s prime, he was a pitcher who could hit 95-96 MPH on his fastball. Quintana now sits mainly in the lower 90s with his heater. With the drop-off, Quintana has missed fewer bats than previous seasons. In 2018, Quintana posted an 8.2 SO9, down from a 10.5 mark the year before. Quintana’s 2.32 SO/W ratio was also the lowest its been since his rookie season.

By throwing more changeups, Quintana will be looking to evolve his game in an effort to continue to compete and pitch deep into games for the Cubs.