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Jose Quintana is the unluckiest pitcher alive

Aug 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

Jose Quintana Jose Quintana

After opening the game with six scoreless innings, White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was the victim Wednesday when Tyler Flowers’ plate block opened the floodgates for the Giants. It turned what should have been a clear out into the Giants’ first run of the game, and they went on to score seven times in the seventh inning, with four of those runs being charged to Quintana. Since it couldn’t even technically be ruled an error on Flowers or anyone else, all of the runs were earned.

It was just the latest bad break for baseball’s unluckiest pitcher. Quintana is 6-9 this year despite a 3.14 ERA that ranks 14th in the AL (he’d probably be 10th instead if Flowers could have waited to shift his foot over).

In 2013, Quintana was 17th in the AL with a 3.51 ERA, yet finished just 9-7 in his 33 starts.

As a rookie in 2012, Quintana was 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 22 starts and three relief appearances.

Add it all up and we have a guy with a sub-.500 career record, despite a 3.46 ERA. That ERA translates into a 119 ERA+, making him one of the six best starters since 1901 with at least 40 decisions and a sub-.500 record.

Johnny Rigney – 122 ERA+ – 64-64, 3.59 ERA from 1937-47
Jim Scott – 121 ERA+ – 107-114, 2.30 ERA from 1909-17
Ned Garvin – 120 ERA+ – 39-65, 2.70 ERA from 1901-1904 (58-97, 2.72 ERA from 1896-1904)
Thornton Lee – 119 ERA+ – 117-124, 3.56 ERA from 1933-48
Jhoulys Chacin – 119 ERA+ – 38-48, 3.78 ERA from 2009-14
Jose Quintana – 119 ERA+ – 21-22, 3.46 ERA from 2012-14

It must be something about the White Sox. Rigney and Scott spent their entire careers with the team, and Lee was there throughout his prime. Even Garvin spent most of 1902 with the team. Chacin seems destined to land there eventually… or maybe he’ll just turn into a winner.

For Quintana, though, wins and losses aren’t the whole picture. It’s also all of the non-decisions. He’s been involved in the decision in just 43 of his 80 starts, which is unique throughout history. Among active starters, only Brandon Beachy joins Quintana in getting a decision in fewer than 55 percent of his starts, and Beachy has started barely half as many games (25 decisions, 46 starts).

Quintana has received a decision in 54 percent of his career starts. AL starters as a whole this year are at 71 percent. The next lowest mark of anyone active with more starts than him belongs to Chris Young, who has received a decision in 62 percent of his 182 starts. And most of the high no-decision guys get that way because they don’t work deep into games. Quintana, though, has averaged 6.05 innings per start in his career. The AL average this year is 5.94 innings per start.

So, with all of those no decisions, Quintana has won just 26.25 percent of his career starts, something that really sets him apart from the earlier group. Even Chacin has won 35 percent of his career starts.

Quintana is far and away the best pitcher ever to win fewer than 30 percent of his starts.

Quintana – 119 ERA+ – 21 W, 80 GS
Henderson Alvarez – 108 ERA+ – 23 W, 80 GS
Tomo Ohka – 105 ERA + – 51 W, 178 GS
Tom Cheney – 104 ERA+ – 19 W, 71 GS
John Thomson – 104 ERA+ – 63 W, 212 GS
Masato Yoshii – 101 ERA+ – 32 W, 118 GS

But it’s also the remarkable consistency. Quintana hasn’t won 30 percent of his starts in any of his three years to date. Since 2000, there are 45 pitchers, minimum 120 innings pitched, to win fewer than 30 percent of their starts with an ERA+ of 110. Quintana is three of them. Ranked by ERA+, his 2014 is 13th on the list, his 2013 is 19th and his 2012 is 27th.

  1. jlovenotjlo - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    I like the title, because the unluckiest pitcher of all is more than likely not alive.

  2. RickyB - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Two points: 1) Did Jose DeLeon die? I always think of him when it comes to unlucky pitchers (see 1985)p; and 2) Didn’t realize the White Sox had a male prostitute pitching for them in 1902 …

  3. Detroit Michael - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Nice observations and interesting leaderboards. Bravo!

  4. Gamera the Brave - Aug 14, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    I was at this game yesterday. The home plate Ump’s strike zone seemed a little inconsistent, but the Giants hitters were mostly waving impotently at what seemed like pretty good stuff. On the flip side, Peavy was also really, REALLY overdue for some run support…

  5. norvturnersneck - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    And he pitches in the AL with a sub-3.5 ERA

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