Appreciating Jose Quintana one more time

The 2016 season is entering its final weekend and the slog through the final weeks and days of the season, as has too often been the case when following the White Sox, have roared along like a tidal wave of molasses.

As we prepare our minds to enter “offseason mode,” things don’t get much more optimistic. We’re entering a world where, depending on who you believe, Robin Ventura is either definitely returning as manager in 2017 or has a decent chance of doing so. Where rumors surrounding the team’s ace, Chris Sale, will again become more and more prevalent. And where a barren free agent market begets little light on obvious improvements for a team that will be coming out of its eighth consecutive season without a playoff appearance.

Things are and continue to be grim, but Jose Quintana made his final start of 2016 on Thursday, and while much ink has been spilled both here and on the main site about his ascension over the past year-plus, it’s worth appreciating one last time this year just how good he’s become.

Where Quintana came from — minor league free agent signee after having been released twice — is impressive enough that had he spent a few years as an OK reliever it would’ve been considered a win. But after completing his fourth straight season of at least 200 IP, with improved year-to-year statistics across the board, he’s become a bonafide front-line starter, and in 2016 was arguably one of the five best pitchers in the American League.

Just look at this. Or this. And this. Also this.

When Quintana blew a 93-mph four-seamer with nasty movement past Evan Longoria Monday night (the first “this,”) it was yet another reminder of how far he’s come.

For those of us who have watched him every fifth day for the past four years — me, and, presumably you — it’s become so commonplace that you almost take it for granted. Oh, another solid outing for Quintana. Seven innings, two runs, five strikeouts. Cool. Six innings, one run, eight strikeouts. Alright.

Sale’s stuff is electric. If a baseball fan were in a coma for the last 10 years, woke up Tuesday and immediately turned on his start, they’d likely be able to identify within just a few pitches that he was among the best in baseball.

Quintana? He’s like the book you read in high school when you were a young punk who didn’t appreciate good literature, only finding time to appreciate the impression it made on you years later.

Like Sale, Quintana is going to be the subject of plenty of trade rumors in coming months. I’m not going to use this time to opine on whether or not they should unload him for a gaggle of prospects (OK, yes I am, DON’T DO IT), but instead to reflect on yet another incredible season from a guy who five years ago was told his services were no longer needed for the second time in his career, and by Sunday will likely have been penciled in among the Top 5 on more than a few Cy Young ballots.

Lead Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski -USA TODAY Sports

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