April 24, 2013
Chapter 19:The interpretation of strike zones
I don't believe I have seen Jose Quintana pitch against another team, but from his outings against the Indians, I find it hard to believe that is capable of pitching poorly. Like Indians starter Zach McAllister, Quintana didn't last long because of the tight strike zone (more on that later) but he still managed to only walk two. Along the way, he continued to befuddle the Tribe hitters with his low-90s fastballs and assorted off-speed pitches.
Quintana made his major-league debut against the Indians last year, and that debut (pitching in relief of Phillip Humber in the first game of a doubleheader) didn't put in the rotation right away; it was his second start, also against the Indians, that did the trick. This of course was against a lineup that was utterly helpless against any sentient left-hander it faced, and featuring Aaron Cunningham and Jose Lopez as bench guys that hit against southpaws. Still, the Indians weren't the only clubs Quintana had success against, and now he's fully established as a key member of the Chicago rotation. The kicker is that the White Sox signed him as a free agent in 2011. No, not a major-league free agent, a minor-league free agent. Some clubs seem to fall into starting pitching.
There are times that I think it might be better to let the robo-eye call balls strikes rather than the human eye, and yesterday's game was one of those times. Watching the game on replay, I count 7-10 times (split evenly between both starters) what was called a ball should have been called a strike. A strike zone is not a work of art, garnering different interpretations by every person that walks by it, but a black-and-white definition that should elicit absolute conformity. I know that the standard refrain is that pitchers should adjust to a smaller (or larger) strike zone, but that's unfair to pitchers, batters, and the people watching the game. This game is all about repetition, and when suddenly what has a strike 98% of the time in your life is suddenly not a strike, would it be any wonder why yesterday's game wasn't exactly a thing of beauty? Rant over.
The Indians did have a couple of good chances to score more runs in the game. Probably the best one was in the sixth inning, after the Indians had plated two runs. Jason Kipnis had stolen second and third off of White Sox reliever Nate Jones, and Nick Swisher, one of the best hitters in the lineup that day, at the plate. But Swisher struck out, and Ryan Raburn flew out to end the inning. Carlos Santana or Mark Reynolds would have been hitting instead of Raburn in that spot, but Santana was out with the flu, and Reynolds had been moved up in the lineup because both Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera (sore quad) was out of the lineup.
That was pretty much it for the Indians. Mike Aviles got on in the ninth inning off of closer Addison Reed, but Lonnie Chisenhall's sharp grounder was fielded by shortstop Alexei Ramirez to end the game.