Jose Quintana Becoming a Sinker Pitcher

Jose Quintana’s four-seamer and curveball made him one of the most appealing pitchers in MLB (being left-handed and under cheap club control for a couple years didn’t hurt either). For every 10 pitches he throws, seven have been some mix of those two offerings. But the pitch combination that previously defined Quintana is being used less and less.

The Colombian starter is turning into a sinker-baller right before our eyes.

To illustrate the evolution, follow the three pie charts below. Each chart breaks down Q’s four-seam (FF) and sinker (FT) fastball usage. The first chart display’s the lefty’s usage prior to August 2017, while the following two are data from August 2017 and then his most recent start, respectively.

Prior to August, 76 percent of Quintana’s fastballs were four-seamers. That split has essentially flipped here in August, to the extent that 82 percent of his fastballs in his August 14 start against the Reds were sinkers.

Granted, this is only three starts. Perhaps he’s been using the sinker more because he hasn’t had a good feel for the four-seamer. Or maybe this is just measurement error by Trackman. If measured reliably, I’m leaning towards this increased sinker usage being a real trend worth monitoring because the lefty relies so heavily on fastballs. It seems too dramatic to not be a conscious effort to change.

Since the 28-year-old has become a sinker-heavy pitcher, his grounder rate has concomitantly risen to over 52 percent, whereas it was 42 percent prior to the change. More grounders would be a welcomed aspect to Q’s game.

Quintana’s evolution into a sinker-first pitcher might ruffle some feathers because he hasn’t had particularly strong starts lately. Some might not want the lefty to experiment with the change because the Cubs are in the midst of a pennant race. But I’m excited to see Quintana try this. If he’s able to induce more grounders, the best is yet to come.

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