Should We Pay Attention To The Early Pitch Mix Changes For José Quintana & Taylor Hearn?

It’s probably a weird process, but I enjoy looking into players with a perception of being awful. José Quintana falls into that category with the recent struggles after being a workhorse starter. However, it’s safe to imagine Quintana holds more value as a real-life pitcher than for fantasy baseball. We know Quintana’s curve looked juicy in the past, but he made an eyebrow-raising pitch mix change in his first 2022 start. It could be the matchup, or it might be a minor trend moving forward.

The same goes with Taylor Hearn to some extent, although deep-league fantasy baseball fanatics remember the name. Hearn popped in some off-season research about pitch mix changes and provided a seemingly unexciting profile. It's overreaction season, and we love small samples. Unfortunately, not all pitch mix changes result in positive outcomes, but let's examine Hearn and Quintana with the early deep-league pitch mix changes.

Should We Pay Attention To The Early Pitch Mix Changes For José Quintana & Taylor Hearn?

José Quintana (SP — PIT)

After pitching for the Cubs for over three seasons, José Quintana faced his former team in his first start in 2022. Quintana posted four straight seasons with 200 plus innings (2013–2016). Then Quintana dropped that to 177 plus innings in the next three seasons.

From 2013 to 2019, Quintana had a 3.72 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 21.6% strikeout rate, and 6.7% walk rate. That came with a .305 BABIP and 73.6% LOB%, plus a below-average 8.4% swinging-strike rate.

jose quintana

Then in a smaller sample of 73 innings from 2020 to 2021, Quintana had a 6.16 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 28.7% strikeout rate, and 11.2% walk rate. Unsurprisingly, Quintana’s .376 BABIP and 64.9% LOB% aligned with the struggles. Meanwhile, Quintana’s 11.8% swinging-strike rate increased in the small sample.

In Quintana's first start, he gave up five hits, an earned run, and two walks with three strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Interestingly, Quintana relied on the changeup (38%), four-seamer (35%), and curveball (21%).

jose quintana

However, Quintana never used the changeup more than 14.6% of the time in recent seasons. On a positive note, Quintana’s changeup finished with a 43% Whiff% and 33% CSW%. In 2021, Quintana’s changeup elicited a 15% swinging-strike rate versus a career rate of 8.9%. Although Quintana likely faces many right-handed hitters as a lefty, it’s positive to see him attack righties with the changeup.

jose quintana

Quintana swapped the sinker for the changeup in the first start of 2022. That might be a positive move with Quintana posting a career .262 BA, .417 SLG, and .325 wOBA against the sinker in the Statcast era. However, in 2018 and 2019 combined, Quintana’s sinker had a .278 BA, .441 SLG, and .342 wOBA, so that’s a slight improvement.

Quintana Takeaways

It’s early, but the pitch mix change is something to monitor. Unfortunately, Quintana’s career 8.6% swinging-strike rate doesn’t excite us, but he posted double-digit rates in 2020 and 2021. Quintana pitched in relief in 22 out of 33 appearances over the past two seasons, so it’s logical for the swinging-strike rates to increase.

jose quintana

In Quintana’s career, the curveball is the only pitch with a swinging-strike rate above 9%. Quintana remains a pitch-to-contact pitcher with an innings floor, but the changeup could help the swings and misses moving forward. We'll see how Quintana fares against the Nationals on Sunday. The Nationals rank middle of the pack with a .286 wOBA (No. 16) and 82 wRC+ (No. 18) against left-handed pitchers.

Taylor Hearn (SP - TEX)

Around mid-March, we reached that point in the off-season where it warranted a Taylor Hearn deep dive. The basis behind that article involved Taylor Hearn's increased fastball usage, particularly with the sinker in 2021. 

taylor hearn

Sometimes when we consider pitch mix changes, we think of a pitcher throwing their best pitch more often. However, Hearn only threw one sinker in the small 2020 sample, which bumped to over 21% in 2021. The sinker resulted in a .255 BA, .330 SLG, and .300 wOBA in 2021. 

taylor hearn

In Hearn's first start against the Rockies, he threw the slider 34% of the time, with four-seam at 28%. Meanwhile, Hearn only threw the slider 20% of the time in 2021. We'll want to monitor Hearn using the cutter more, which he threw only three times in 2021. Unfortunately, Hearn's cutter finished with a 0% Whiff% and 17% CSW%, so it didn't stand out after one appearance. It's an early pitch mix change, but nothing actionable to takeaway yet.  

Hearn's Takeaways

On Saturday evening, Hearn faces the Angels. It's early, but the Angels rank 28th with a 32 wRC+ and .208 wOBA against left-handed pitchers. Jesús Luzardo's dominant start likely skewed these numbers for the Angels. Hearn serves as a deep-league streamer to consider in daily leagues. Assuming Hearn uses the slider more again for whiffs, that increases the strikeout upside, which he lacked in 2021 with a 20.9% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate.

Featured photo credit: Smiley N. Pool - Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer

Data sources: FanGraphs and Baseball Savant

Twitter: @corbin_young21

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