At some point the Jose Quintana-Jeff Samardzija debate evolved in my mind from fun 'embarrassment of riches' argument into something that deserves this over the top hot take. But seriously:
And just 2014
We don't like to rely on WAR here, but there's a clear reason for it here; if two guys put up the same stats, opt for the one pitching in the tougher league and ballpark. Yet Chuck Garfien's profile of the new Samardzija and Sale relationship is hardly the first to trot out the 1-2 punch moniker.
There's a theoretical world where everyone does a deep contemplation of the stats before assigning casual labels for players and pairings, and it's called "Hell," but the erasure of Quintana from the front of the discussion is pretty odd, since it's pushing aside a rare bright spot from two rather awful years.
The media reasons for Samardzija's prominence are pretty easy to compile. He's been in the Chicago sports media consciousness for nearly a decade, thanks to his Notre Dame stardom. His prospect status, of which Quintana never had any, was bolstered by the gaudy major league contract Jim Hendry handed him. Perhaps most compelling, Chicago press has spent years talking about Samardzija as the ace of the Cubs staff. With that reputation in place, only enhanced by him being the prize of a blockbuster deadline trade, his transition to the South Side has led to the simple calculation of "Sale's an ace, Samardzija's an ace; they got two aces!"
That's all most harmless superficial sports coverage stuff, but my bone to pick is the hesitance to recognize Quintana. For whatever reason, traditional coverage was quick to accept Quintana as a legit player after he started his career with strong outings in tough environments while saberists were slower to accept him, and quicker to anoint him as essentially an All-Star level contributor. A cynical mind could blame his win-loss record, but really that's just symptomatic of bad teams not drawing coverage or the type of scrutiny to look beyond their best one or two players.
Quintana is also a guy that you have to keep an eye on his stats to even realize he's special. At his best, he sneaks into the fifth inning unscathed before you realize he's cruising. His first defined skill was throwing fastball in on the hands of right-handers, and didn't really accumulate any flash until he started opting more for a wipeout curveball this year. But while Sale regularly make hitters look like they're chasing the impossible, with sliders that cartoonishly bend and changeups that stop on a dime and slink off the planet, or the way Samardzija just overpowers, Quintana's whiffs look like the K's non-strikeout pitchers get; when hitters are not overwhelmed, but trapped by count, sequencing, or are simply out-guessed. Quintana striking out guys with 93 mph heat upstairs looks impressive, but it's the same method he used when he threw 89 mph, and often resembles the way Buehrle sneaks fastballs by people because it's the first thing he's thrown over 82 mph in a while. And like Buehrle, a big part of watching him and buying into his skill is that he's now been doing it for a while.
This is not a very quick way to force yourself to the front of the stage. That Jose's English is both amazing--since he's worked on his own time to go from dependent on an interpreter to doing interviews on his own in just a couple of years--and still too intermediate for the type of breezily candid piece the Sale-Samardzija article was, sadly slows his narrative machine.
No one is willfully ignoring Quintana, but there are obstacles to his ascent and not enough momentum has been built yet from this dormant franchise to push him forward. So here's a nudge. He's better than Samardzija, and probably will be again in 2015.
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