One of the game’s most consistent pitchers might’ve just gotten better after a tweak to a familiar pitch. According to early data, Jose Quintana is throwing his curve with four times more movement compared to previous five seasons. Prior to this season, Q’s curveball had an average drop of two inches and was the 17th most valuable of its kind in MLB since 2014.
Now, however, it’s dropping with eight inches of movement. You don’t even need to understand the graph below to understand how his bender has pulled a Thelma and Louise so far this season.
And if that particular visual still doesn’t do it for you, maybe try this one on for size…
More curveball filth from Q to escape a jam in the sixth. pic.twitter.com/7BH2inyNNA
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) April 8, 2018
What a disgustingly beautiful pitch. Good luck with that, MLB.
New pitching coach Jim Hickey is not unfamiliar with helping pitchers succeed with curveballs. He tutored Mike Montgomery on the very pitch that sealed a World Series championship for the Cubs, made James Shields and Alex Cobb two of the most valuable pitchers in the league during their prime, and is currently working with Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood to improving their breaking balls as well.
Though it’s not quite the same stakes, I remember my Little League coaches screaming at me to throw over the top. Over and over again, the phrase was drilled into my mind. Maybe Hickey is doing the same with his Cubs starters. After all, Chatwood’s release point is dramatically higher to start this season, and he isn’t the only one throwing curves more over-the-top.
Quintana’s curveball release point is about two inches higher than in the past. While that’s not as severe a difference as we’re seeing with Chatwood, Q’s change is still pretty noticeable. This is one reason why Q’s curveball is dropping with four times as much movement. Another might be that he’s throwing it with less velocity, but that still doesn’t explain the massive spike we see below.
Like anything during April baseball, we should wait and see if this trend continues. I’m excited, though, to monitor Q’s curveball going forward because that pitch has defined his career. Making his curve even better than it was during his most successful seasons could yield fascinating results.