The Tigers have seen a lot of Jose Quintana over the years. Their former division rival has made 18 starts against the Tigers in his career with mixed results. He has five wins and a solid 3.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those outings, but has also allowed a 4.37 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 111 1⁄3 innings. Quintana was good about limiting the long ball — he always seemed to strand a number of Tigers hitters on base — but in the end they were much better than average against him.
Of course, those matchups featured a much different Tigers team than the one manager Ron Gardenhire will run out on Wednesday. Only three active Tigers players have more than 20 career plate appearances against Quintana, and their numbers aren’t great. Nicholas Castellanos has 10 hits in 35 at-bats, but only one has gone for extra bases. Both he and Jose Iglesias have an OPS under .600. Victor Martinez is hitting .429 in 42 at-bats against Quintana, but he has been a shell of his former self for the past couple years.
That inexperience might not matter for the rest of the Tigers lineup, though. They have continued to hit well against left-handed pitching all season long, and Quintana’s platoon splits are more significant this year than they have been in the past.
Can the Tigers notch another win against their old divisional rival and split the series?
Detroit Tigers (38-48) at Chicago Cubs (47-35)
Time/Place: 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field
SB Nation site: Bleed Cubbie Blue
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Francisco Liriano (3-4, 3.99 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (6-6, 4.31 ERA)
Game 88 Pitching Matchup
Last year, Chicago’s decision to pay top dollar for Jose Quintana looked like another Theo Epstein masterstroke. Quintana shook off his early season struggles to post a 118 ERA+ down the stretch, with 98 strikeouts in 84 1⁄3 innings. His 3.25 FIP was even better, and was right in line with the excellent numbers he has posted throughout his criminally underrated career. He even got run support! And wins! The Cubs offense helped him earn seven wins in 14 starts, nearly matching many of the season-long totals he posted with those anemic offenses on the South Side.
This year hasn’t been quite as great. Quintana has looked like his usual self at times, but hasn’t delivered his typical consistency from start to start. Take his April, for example.
April 1: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 6 ER
April 6: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER
April 14: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 7 ER
April 22: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER
April 28: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER
May was more of the same, while June was consistently meh throughout. The Cubs started to limit his pitch counts — he hasn’t thrown 100 pitches in a start since May 19 — and he hasn’t had a bad outing since. He also hasn’t had a great outing either. Right as FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards wrote about Quintana righting the ship, he saw his strikeout numbers plummet. He fanned 10 batters in a start on June 6, but has 13 total strikeouts in his four starts since then.
One trend that Edwards found is that Quintana has generally pitched better when his fastball velocity is higher.
Jose Quintana doesn’t need velocity to succeed. The study by Arthur and Matthews showed Quintana’s numbers didn’t move downward a ton without velocity, but they did move up a decent amount when the velocity increased. This conclusion might not be particularly satisfying — we don’t know at what velocity Quintana is going to pitch going forward — but it is encouraging given velocity tends to increase as the season wears on.
Quintana’s fastball velocity continued to climb in June, which bodes well for him going forward.
Key matchup: Tigers batters vs. hitting with RISP
The Tigers have been one of the worst teams in baseball in situational hitting this season. They have the fourth-lowest wRC+ in baseball with runners in scoring position, and are still well below average (93 wRC+) in high leverage situations. This makes sense given their current roster; the good hitters get on base consistently, while the bad ones (Victor Martinez) strand them on base.
They will need to figure out a way to break this mold on Wednesday. Quintana has been excellent about limiting home runs over the course of his career, and despite some struggles in 2018, is still doing well in that department. The Tigers don’t pose much of a power threat anyway, with just 69 home runs on the year. That ranks second-to-last in the American League, just one ahead of the Kansas City Royals.
The Tigers hand Quintana his sixth loss of the year and split the series.