Sunday, April 17, 2016

Chicago White Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays, 1:10 PM ET
CHI: Jose Quintana (Season: 11.2 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 12 K. Last start: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K – 100 pitches, 60 strikes, 24 BF vs. MIN on 4/11)
TBR: Matt Moore (Season: 12.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 11 K. Last start: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 K – 104 pitches, 65 strikes, 26 BF vs. CLE on 4/12)

Hannah Foslien & Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America

Hannah Foslien & Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America

Often overshadowed by Chicago’s ace Chris Sale, Jose Quintana has quietly thrown three-consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings with an ERA below 3.60 and a WHIP below 1.30. This year, his season began fairly well, as he pitched 5.2 innings and allowed just two runs while striking out seven with no walks. However, he surrendered seven hits, with two separate three-hit innings that led to a run a piece.

In his second start, Quintana limited the hits to four over six innings, but walked three against five strikeouts. Overall, Quintana allowed just one run, coming after a leadoff walk to Miguel Sano and a double by Trevor Plouffe led to an Eddie Rosario RBI groundout with one away in the bottom of the fourth. The biggest concern was the walks, one of which led to the only run he’d allow in his outing.

Overall, his control wasn’t terrible despite what the three walks might suggest. He threw 60 percent strikes (60/100), which isn’t great but also isn’t terrible. His curveball was the worst of his pitches, control-wise, as just 12 of 24 went for strikes. You can see the locations of the curveballs he threw below:

While a good amount of these are in the zone or low, where they might induce a swing-and-miss, there’s also a good amount of which are left out of the zone to his arm side – which means they never even looked like strikes out of Quintana’s hand.

When looking at the walks as a whole, the locations don’t seem to be too egregious in error. One came on a missed arm-side curveball, while the other two came on fastballs. However, according to Baseball Savant, the one to Miguel Sano (the one which led to a run) was actually a strike:

In terms of the hits allowed by Quintana in 2016, the location hasn’t been too bad of a problem so far. He’s yet to allow a home run, which bodes well moving forward. Of the hits he has allowed, not many have been on awful pitches. None have been much higher than midway up the strike zone, and just one was down the middle ninth of the strike zone according to Baseball Savant:

Overall on the season, Quintana has thrown a respectable 62.7 percent strikes, so it’s not like he’s missing wildly in every outing. He’s also still allowing fewer than nine hits per nine innings overall, and if he can just maintain that pace it will be an improvement upon last season. If he also continues to strike out hitters at the rate he is (just above nine strikeouts per nine innings), he could be on pace for another excellent season.

Squaring off against Quintana will be fellow left-hander Matt Moore, who’s making his third start of the season after two no-decisions to begin the season. In his first start, Moore allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six and hitting a batter. Six days later, Moore fired a one-run, five-hit effort in seven innings against Cleveland, walking one and striking out five.

So far this year Moore, like so many other pitchers in 2016, has been hurt worst by the longball thus far. All four runs Moore has allowed have been scored as a result of a home run.

Last season, Moore was stung by the big fly somewhat often, allowing nine home runs in 63.0 innings, good for a 1.3 HR/9. The first home run Moore allowed this season was the biggest blow, a three-run shot by Josh Donaldson in the top of the third inning in his first start. The pitch was a 2-2 fastball barely off the middle of the plate, which Donaldson yanked into the left field stands at 105.7 mph. The second home run came on an 0-1 changeup that Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor smashed an impressive 423.5 feet to center field. You can see the locations of both pitches here:

Moore, like Quintana, has also been plagued with a bit of a control issue to open the season. Moore has been missing all over the place with his fastball, including up and out of the zone, which could lead to issues in the future. You can see how erratic Moore’s fastball has been this season, as his strike percentage with the pitch has dropped from over 67 percent last season to below 62 percent this season:

Moore’s curveball has also been all over the zone, registering less than 55 percent strikes, after going for strikes over 60 percent of the time last season:

Of Moore’s strikeouts, most have come by way of the fastball, which has ticked up in velocity by about a mile per hour as well as increased in whiff rate by over 3 percent (8.43 to 11.51). However, many of them have been up around the belt, which is a dangerous spot to pitch to:

The one major concern outside of the general control issues is the effectiveness of Moore’s changeup. Last season, he only threw the pitch about half as often as his curveball, but it garnered a swing-and-miss rate of over 19 percent. This season, he’s upped the usage of the pitch to about equal with his curveball, but for far less success. So far, the pitch is inducing less than 9.5 percent whiffs and is being hit in the air about as often as it’s been hit on the ground; not a good sign for a pitch that’s supposed to attack the bottom of the strike zone:

Overall, Moore’s been relatively successful despite the control woes and less effective changeup. His fastball and changeup still are generating impressive amounts of arm-side run, which is a good sign. If he can start getting the ball lower in the zone and improve on his 0.76 GB/FB rate, he should be more effective and able to stay away from the home run in the future.

This matchup features a pair of under-the-radar left-handers with big potential to turn in effective seasons for a pair of potential playoff sleeper pick teams. Despite posting a couple quality starts and featuring ERAs of 3.00 or lower, both of these pitchers have an extra step to take in order to get them to be as effective as they could possibly be. For both, it starts with improving control and command with both the fastball and off-speed pitches.

Honorable Mentions:

Seattle Mariners @ New York Yankees, 1:05 PM ET: Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Masahiro Tanaka – After signing a $12 million contract to return to Seattle in the offseason, Hisashi Iwakuma has allowed 19 baserunners in 11.0 innings pitched so far, allowing five runs and striking out twelve. Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka looks for a bounce-back start after walking four over five innings in Toronto on Tuesday, allowing three hits and two runs.

New York Mets @ Cleveland Indians, 1:10 PM ET: Steven Matz vs. Corey Kluber: Mets rookie Steven Matz makes his second start of the season after allowing seven runs on six hits and two walks over just 1.2 innings against Miami on April 11. Corey Kluber returns to the mound after working a strong 7.2 innings against the Rays, allowing three runs on four hits, two walks, and six punchouts.

San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers, 8:05 PM ET: Jeff Samardzija vs. Kenta Maeda – Jeff Samardzija goes for his second win of the season after working eight innings of six-hit, two-run baseball against Colorado in which he walked two and struck out five. Kenta Maeda takes the hill for the Dodgers after turning in a pair of scoreless six-inning, five-hit, four-strikeout performances in his first two major-league starts.

About The Author

Matt Wojciak is a 20-year-old senior at St. Joseph's College of Maine, studying for a degree in Accounting. He is a lifelong Red Sox fan, born and raised in southern New Hampshire, with much of his extended family residing in South Boston. If you're a fan of quantity and not quality, be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @mwojciak21.

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