Jose Quintana

How Cubs’ Jose Quintana learned to speak English and more unique notes

How Cubs’ Jose Quintana learned to speak English and more unique notes

José Quintana is one of the more divisive players on the Cubs. The club acquired him from the White Sox in July 2017, sending top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the South Side.

In the long run, that trade will be viewed as one-sided. But no matter how you feel about it, Jimenez and Cease were the price for a durable starting pitcher with a solid track record and team-friendly contract.

We all remember the trade. Let’s get into some lesser-known facts about the Cubs left-hander.

1. Quintana is the only pitcher to make 10 or more starts for both the Cubs and White Sox in the same season. In fact, he made nearly a clean split between the Sox (18) and Cubs (14) in 2017.

Bonus: the Quintana trade was the first Cubs-Sox deal since November 2006. The Cubs acquired Neal Cotts in exchange for David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez.

2. Quintana is one of 24 Colombian born players in MLB history. Others include shortstops Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, and starter Julio Teheran.

RELATED: Brush up on your Cubs trivia with these Anthony Rizzo facts

3. On the last note, Quintana pitched for Colombia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic — the country's first appearance in the tournament.  He made one start, allowing an earned run in 5 2/3 innings in an extra-innings loss to the U.S.

4. As a prospect with the Yankees, Quintana learned to speak English by watching Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show on NBC.

Come on, that’s pretty cool.

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Cubs 2020 roster outlook: One pitch could hold key to Jose Quintana's success

Cubs 2020 roster outlook: One pitch could hold key to Jose Quintana's success

Each day in March, NBC Sports Chicago is previewing one player from the Cubs’ expected 2020 Opening Day roster. Next up is starting pitcher José Quintana.

2019 recap

Quintana made 30+ starts for the seventh straight season. He dropped his walk rate from 9.2% in 2018 to 6.2 percent last season, and his 3.5 WAR (per FanGraphs’ metric) was second among Cubs pitchers, behind Kyle Hendricks.

In those 31 starts, Quintana tossed 171 innings — down from 188 2/3 in 2017 and 174 1/3 in 2018. While he posted career worsts in ERA (4.68) and WHIP (1.39), there’s reason to expect some improvement from the 31-year-old lefty in 2020.

Quintana’s FIP (3.80) was nearly a run better than his ERA last season. FIP measures what a pitcher’s ERA would be if he experienced league average results on balls in play. The discrepancy between the two means Quintana was a bit unlucky — balls finding holes, soft contact dropping in, etc.

Quintana also sported a .326 batting average on balls in play — well above the MLB average (.298). However, we can’t ignore the fact he surrendered hard contact more frequently than any season in his career. 

Quintana quality of contact rates

Type of contact 2019 rate Career rate
Soft 16.5 percent 16.7 percent
Medium 45.2 percent 52.3 percent
Hard 38.2 percent 30.9 percent


Hard contact doesn’t always translate to hits, but the lower that rate is, the better.

Expectations for this season’s role

2020 is the final year of the team-friendly contract Quintana signed with the White Sox six years ago. That deal is a big reason the Cubs traded for him in 2017, and fans need not be reminded whom the Cubs dealt to the South Side in return.

Quintana is locked in as the No. 4 starter on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. The question everyone has is whether he'll outperform that role and look more like the guy he was on the South Side (3.51 ERA) than with the Cubs (4.23)

If the Cubs find themselves out of the playoff picture come July, Quintana is a likely trade candidate. He's durable and won't come with a hefty price tag, and for the Cubs, moving whatever is left of his salary will help them get under the luxury tax — which they've yet to do.

2020 outlook

The Cubs need Quintana to string together good outings on a more frequent basis this season, and the key lies in his changeup. 

Quintana won’t blow anyone away with his fastball — his four-seamer averaged 91.6 mph last season. That isn’t an issue itself, but it's problematic when he becomes over reliant on that and his curveball. Hitters can sit fastball knowing they won't get blown away and likely not be fooled with a changeup.

Quintana 2019 pitch usage

Pitch Percent of time thrown
Four-seam fastball 36.4
Curveball 27.2
Sinker 25.4
Changeup 11

Last season, opponents hit .292 against Quintana’s four-seam fastball, .297 against his sinker and .244 against his curveball, per FanGraphs. They hit .354 against his changeup, which Quintana recently told the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales he doesn’t have a good feel for “most of the time.”

Quintana also admitted he's at his best when throwing all his pitches and hopes a new changeup grip — similar to a four-seam fastball rather than two-seam — will help him disguise the pitch better. Granted, he threw his changeup just 8 percent of the time in 2016, one of his finer campaigns. But opponents hit .243 against his four-seamer, and he threw it harder (92.6 mph) than any other season.

Quintana has shown throughout his career he's better than last season. Mixing all of his pitches effectively (and perhaps some better luck) could be the key to a bounce back year. If his performance exceeds his position in the rotation, it will be considered a win.

If he can’t bounce back, it will spell trouble for the Cubs — who need a big season from their rotation to get back to October.

The complete roster outlook series:

1. Cubs hoping Kris Bryant stabilizes leadoff spot in 2020
2. Kyle Hendricks is a steady force in the Cubs' rotation
3. Kyle Schwarber is primed for a breakout 2020 season
4. Tyler Chatwood has chance to rewrite the script in 2020
5. David Bote searching for more offensive consistency in 2020

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The Cubs REFUSE to go into the luxury tax this year

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Cubs REFUSE to go into the luxury tax this year

Host David Kaplan is live from the auto show with 670 the Score host David Haugh to discuss Kris Bryant's future as a Cub, still no acquisitions made by the Cubs, and the Cubs refusal to enter this season in the luxury tax.

(1:36) - Is Kris Bryant a Cub opening day?

(4:07) - Cubs have added 0 impact talent

(8:10) - Starting lineup for the Cubs right now

(11:35) - Cubs will not go into the luxury tax

(14:00) - Cubs need to get rid of Jose Quintana

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast

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