The Chicago Cubs Jose Quintana had a plan coming into spring. A change was coming. More of them, actually. He planned to throw more changeups, and it’s paying early dividends.
It’s hard to take much from Spring Training numbers, whether they’re good or bad. We learned that after the spring Ian Happ had for the Chicago Cubs last year. This season, the spring has just sprung. We’re just a few weeks in, but the Cubs’ Jose Quintana has a plan coming into this season. Early results are in his favor, and it’s very likely because of the changes he made this year.
A few weeks ago, we had a piece here on the site about Quintana and wanting to expand his repertoire. He wasn’t necessarily expanding it but making adaptations to it. Last season, Quintana used his changeup just 6.8 percent of the time. His focus was on the fastball and his curveball, with his fastball accounting for 50.2 percent of his total pitches. If you’ve watched Quintana, he’s not Noah Syndergaard. That’s too many fastballs for a guy who throws in the low to mid 90’s.
So the plan this spring? Mix in the changeup more often. Tommy Hottovy has dug into his numbers, and right away saw a way to get him back on the right track.
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“A lot of times you’ll see him, because of the way his fastball plays, he gets a lot of foul balls,” Hottovy said. (Subscription required). “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.’
In Spring Training, Quintana has made two starts, throwing just five innings. He’s not allowed a run, given up only two hits while striking out three and walking one. That’s a WHIP of just 0.600. And how, pray tell, has he come to these impressive numbers? Funny you should ask.
This spring, Quintana has favored his sinker (11 times, 37.93) over his fastball (10 times, 34.48). But the most significant change has come from, well, his change. He’s thrown it seven times (24.14), much higher than his percentage last season. He’s only thrown one curveball, but that’s likely intentional as he becomes more confident with his changeup. His curveball has always been his outpitch. Confidence is needed in his change.
Not to mention, Quintana has seen his fastball on the uptick. It’s only about a mile per hour, but he’s seen the same increase on the sinker, as well. So the differential between his fastball and his change isn’t much different from last season, but enough to keep the hitter off-balance.
For Quintana, it wasn’t so much about the velocity, but being comfortable to throw the changeup in fastball counts. If he can develop that reliability this spring, that ‘haul’ of players the Cubs traded might have been worth it. Also, as an FYI? None of the players the Chicago Cubs gave up have played a single inning yet in the majors. Will they? Very likely. But we gave up potential talent for a pitcher who could show it this season in a year that we could really use him.