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Jose Quintana acing starting role with Pirates

Quintana has a 2.70 ERA in six starts entering Sunday

MLB: Game Two-Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers
Jose Quintana
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Quintana has been a successful reclamation project for the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.

Anchoring a rotation filled with young and inexperienced starters, Quintana has set a high bar for the Bucs' arms to attempt to match.

Quintana has compiled a 2.70 ERA spanning 30 innings. In six starts, Quintana is 1-1 with 25 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He has only allowed two home runs and walked 13 batters in his first season with the Pirates. Quintana is just short of the innings qualification for total ERA, but would slot tied for 19th with Kansas City’s Brad Keller.

Once considered one of the best left-handed starters in baseball, Quintana started only 10 games in 2021 for the Los Angeles Angels in 24 appearances. He also pitched in five games for the San Francisco Giants before becoming a free agent.

Quintana turned to Pittsburgh to help regain his former form that commanded a hefty trade haul from the Chicago Cubs when the now 33-year-old was on the opposite side of the city with the White Sox.

Quintana reached 10 years of MLB service time on Saturday and is having a rejuvenated season compared to his big league experience since leaving Chicago’s South Side.

Limiting home runs has been a significant key to Quintana’s success. Statistically speaking, Quintana grades poorly in numerous Baseball Savant categories.

Quintana is in the 17th percentile in both xERA (expected ERA) and xwOBA (Expected weighted on-base percentage) with lower numbers being on the poorer end. xwOBA is determined by using exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint speed on certain types of batted balls.

He is also in the 10th percentile in fastball spin, 15th in fastball velocity, and in the 16th percentile in curve spin.

Quintana has learned how to adjust to a dip in velocity compared to his prime seasons. His four-seam fastball velocity is down from 91.5 MPH in 2021 to 90.4 MPH. This could be in part to pitching mainly out of the bullpen last year and a return to pitching every five days.

Fastball usage is one key indicator in Quintana securing outs. His four-seam fastball usage (36 percent) is currently the lowest of the lefty’s career. Quintana’s sinker is also down more than six percent to 11.2 percent as the least used pitch of his four-pitch mix.

The changeup has been an underrated part of Quintana’s career and a pitch that pitching coach Oscar Marin clearly is game planning to use extensively.

Quintana has more than doubled his changeup usage from last year to this year from 14.6 percent to 30.2 percent. The changeup is now by far the second most-used pitch in Quintana’s arsenal. Curveball usage has dropped as a result with hitters only batting .174 against the pitch, the lowest of the four.

The sinker has been hit the most of any pitch (.357 average) with the fastball plating a .182 average and changeup at the Mendoza Line (.200 average), and weak contact (7 percent) is at a career-high for Quintana and a large part of his sub-three ERA.

Adjustments have helped Quintana to earn another chance in a major league rotation and is taking full advantage of the opportunity in Pittsburgh. He’s been a veteran presence and someone the Pirates could opt to deal at the trade deadline if he maintains his 2022 pitching performances.