Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said José Quintana looked like a “different cat” after the lefty mowed down The Burgh in Sunday night’s Little League Classic. For once, Hurdle is correct in his assessment of a Cubs player, since Quintana really does look different. That’s because he made a big-time adjustment to his sinker.
Hurdle on Quintana:”Tonight he was a different cat.” Raved about all his pitches.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) August 19, 2019
Quintana recently changed the location in which he throws sinkers. Rather than hammering the lower portion of the strike zone, he has instead shifted over the last few weeks to attack hitters up-and-in. Never before have we seen Quintana consistently pound the upper portion of the strike zone in such a calculated and consistent manner.
Working his sinker up in the strike zone has not only led to an increase in whiffs on that pitch, but also a massive spike in swings and misses on his changeup. In August, Quintana’s 23% whiff rate on his change is in the top 90% of all lefty starters.
This isn’t just some fluke either. As you can see from the chart below, all of Quintana’s sinker whiffs have come on pitches up in the zone.
Let’s take a look at Q’s lethal new sinker/changeup combination from last week’s start against the Phillies. He first throws a sinker up-and-in to reviled Gatorade cooler puncher Sean Rodriguez. Then he follows up with a disgusting changeup in the same tunnel to whiff the former Pirate. Down goes Rodriguez with a swinging strikeout.
I’ve probably written close to a hundred posts about Quintana since the Cubs acquired him, and I can’t remember being as pumped up about him as I am right now. Throwing more elevated sinkers should continue to make his changeup more effective, which in turn amplifies his sinker effectiveness even further.
This could be a really big deal.