A lot has changed for the LA Angels’ starting rotation since Jose Quintana hit the injured list on May 31. After months of underperforming, the group is finally starting to figure things out and the results have mostly been exceptional.
However, with Quintana set to begin his rehab assignment soon and return to the majors not long after, finding a place for him in the Halos’ updated rotation will be trickier than originally thought.
As the rotation improves, Jose Quintana’s role becomes more uncertain.
The big story for the rotation this month has been the rise of fellow lefty Patrick Sandoval. After giving a hint of his potential filling in for Alex Cobb in May, he has so far done a remarkable job in place of Quintana.
Already he’s turned in two of the best starts of his career since taking Quintana’s spot. Overall, his 2.77 ERA as a starter this year is the best on the team and more than two and a half times lower than Quintana’s 7.22 ERA.
As it stands, booting Sandoval from the rotation may not be an option. In that case, is there a chance that Quintana may take someone else’s spot? To put it bluntly, no.
Obviously Ohtani is untouchable, and Cobb, Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning have all shown several flashes of greatness this season, especially in June. Even Dylan Bundy, for all his missteps this season, is better suited for a starting role in the short run, if only for his likely superior value on the trade market.
And no, before anyone even thinks it, a regular seven-man rotation is not going to be a thing.
As of right now, there really doesn’t seem to be a place for an ailing, injury stricken 32-year-old southpaw who can’t go longer than five innings anymore.
This leaves just one alternative for the Angels and Quintana: the bullpen.
With his trade value virtually nonexistent and only getting worse with each start, sticking Quintana in the bullpen may be the only way for both him and the organization to salvage his disastrous season.
For what it’s worth, Quintana might actually be pretty decent in a relief role. While he’s only made seven relief appearances in his career, including three in 2020, he does own a 1.89 ERA in them. Perhaps more importantly, though, is his performance early in games this season.
In six of his nine starts, including his last five, he hasn’t given up a single run in the first two innings. In those innings, opposing batters are only hitting just .229/.357/.343 in the first and .235/.333/.324 in the second.
Likewise, through his first 25 pitches, Quintana is producing an opponents’ OPS of only .682, while on his next 25 pitches this number skyrockets to .980.
There’s also the matter of Quintana’s excellent numbers against lefties this season. While righties are clobbering him with a .330/.425/.519 (.944 OPS) slash line, lefties have been stifled to the tune of a .125/.282/.250 (.532 OPS) mark.
Considering how unreliable Alex Claudio has been as the team’s primary lefty out of the pen this year, throwing Quintana into the mix might be the best move.
On top of all this, Quintana is also producing a career-best 13.4 K/9 in 2021, adding more credence to his viability as an effective reliever. Granted this is contrasted against a career-worst 7.0 BB/9 so this plan isn’t without its risks.
In the end, despite Joe Maddon’s insistence on not giving up on Quintana as a starter, there simply isn’t a place for him in the rotation anymore. If there is even a small chance that he can contribute to the team as a reliever, the Angels have to take it.