There's really not a red flag that Jose Quintana hasn't raised during his meteoric rise to prominence in the White Sox rotation. He was unheralded as a prospect, released by another team, has a hard time hitting more than 91 mph, and is lucky on balls in play and stranding runners. All the seeds for doubt are there.
But most of all he couldn't get strikeouts (around two below the league average per nine innings), he couldn't beat hitters on his own terms. And that's where any argument about Quintana is going to start until his success record gets around eight times as large.
Because of that, Thursday's dominance of the Texas Rangers takes on extra significance. Quintana didn't just skate out of trouble against one of the league's most revered offenses with his usual methods, he eviscerated them in a manner previously not seen from him.
Quintana allowed just two hits, and didn't really come close to allowing any others. He garnered a career-high eight strikeouts, and got fourteen swinging strikes while doing it.
It's not quite the feat that shutting down the Rangers in the middle of May might have been, but it was an elite offense on a hot day in a launching pad, and Quintana made it irrelevant by getting awkward swings on his fastball, slider, and a curve. There's a new standard for Best Quintana Start Ever, and this is it.
That inevitably alters our conception of what Quintana can be, but how much?
For the long journey he's traveled from making a spot start, to being tabbed as the injury replacement for John Danks, to the point where it's hard to see him leaving the rotation this season, it's amazing that Jose has still only had eight proper starts. For all the talk of regression that's coming, there should be some respect given that he's in the thick of his development too.
After leaning hard on his heater for most of his major league career, Quintana threw mostly off-speed stuff to the Texas hitters, and didn't see any dropoff in control. Despite all his trouble generating strikeouts, the banner day for Jose's curveball and slider dragged his swinging strike percentage up to 10.1% on the season, right around the territory of James Shields, Matt Garza and Gavin Floyd.
There's no one-to-one correlation between swings-and-misses and strikeouts (see Jackson, Edwin), but it speaks to the idea that Quintana's stuff has stood up to the test of the league a lot more than one would imagine.
So far, at least.
Quintana's still got the drop on the entire league, and the Indians are the only team he's faced more than once (albeit to fine results). And since Jose has been busy ripping pages out of the book on him all year, and he's still 23 years old, we could reach the end of the season with only a limited amount of confidence on how to assess his ability level.
But there are performances and moments that have lasting impact on how we conceive of a player, for better or worse, especially early in their careers. Seeing Jose Quintana dismantle the Texas Rangers in person will stick with me for a while.
There's a lot of confidence with Quintana on the mound, it's not Sale-sized, but he's no longer a fill-in that we hope will find a way out of things. Given where he's come from, that's a pretty big accomplishment, for him and the White Sox.