With his recent stretch of strong starts, Cal Quantrill is proving he belongs in the Cleveland Indians rotation not only now, but in the future.
The Cleveland Indians’ rotation has been something of a raging dumpster fire this season, thanks to the prolonged injuries to Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, in addition to the epic struggles of Opening Day rotation members Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen, who had a 9.13 ERA in seven starts before being sent back to Triple-A Columbus.
Despite the pitching staff’s issues adjusting to injuries that were of the worst-case-scenario variety in regards to the team’s postseason chances, it has given numerous young pitchers a shot at proving themselves. One of those hurlers who has really started to get in a groove is Cal Quantrill, who has a 3.40 ERA in 12 starts and 30 overall appearances this season.
Quantrill, 26, has a 134 ERA+ and 61 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings, but he has been especially good in his last six starts. Against the Astros, Royals, Athletics, Rays, Cardinals, and White Sox (all playoff contenders besides Kansas City), Quantrill has posted a 2.36 ERA in 34 1/3 innings, with opposing batters hitting just .208 against him.
And he’s been even better in his last four starts, giving up one run or less in each and logging six innings in each of his last three starts.
Here’s a full look at his last six starts:
July 4 (Houston): 5 1/3 innings, six hits, three earned runs, three strikeouts, two walks
July 10 (Kansas City): Six innings, five hits, three earned runs, one strikeout, one walk
July 17 (at Oakland): Five innings, four hits, one earned run, five strikeouts, two walks
July 22 (Tampa Bay): Six innings, four hits, one earned run, two strikeouts, three walks
July 27 (St. Louis): Six innings, four hits, one earned run, five strikeouts, one walk
August 1 (at Chicago): Six innings, three hits, no earned runs (one unearned), six strikeouts, four walks
That’s the good stuff right there.
While Quantrill is still putting too many guys on base, he’s shown a knack for getting out of jams, which the team will certainly take. And now that he’s fully ensconced in the rotation – having been a full-time member of it since June 15 – Quantrill is showing he belongs in the soon-to-be Cleveland Guardians rotation come 2022 as well.
So what to make of Quantrill’s recent success? How do we explain this rotation-stabilizing stretch – and is it sustainable?
One of the biggest reasons for Quantrill’s impressive run is that he’s using his full five-pitch arsenal. As a reliever, there is rarely much of a reason these days to use anything beyond a two or maybe three-pitch mix, but Quantrill has a sinker, slider, changeup, four-seam fastball, and curveball.
Last season, he threw the sinker 48% of the time, the slider 35%, the changeup roughly 11%, and the fastball just 6% of the time. Now, Quantrill is incorporating the curveball nearly 5% of the time while increasing his fastball usage at 13%.
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Interestingly, he’s cut back on the slider by about ten percent this year, but he’s increased the whiff percentage on that pitch from 25.6% to 33.3%. Opponents are also hitting just .173 against Quantrill’s slider this season, as opposed to .294 in 2020. That has truly been his money pitch this season, perhaps owing to the other four pitches he’s throwing. Quantrill doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, so anything he can get on that front is going to be huge.
He pitches to contact, and opposing batters have just a 87.5 mph average exit velocity off of him (something he’s excelled at throughout his career so far), putting Quantrill in the 79th percentile of all MLB pitchers in 2021. But that makes it imperative that he keeps as many guys off the bases as possible. If Quantrill can just cut down on the walks, Cleveland is really going to have something here.
Thinking ahead to next season, a rotation that features Bieber, Civale, Plesac, Quantrill and whomever ends up in the fifth spot (McKenzie? Morgan?) is flat-out dominating. The 2021 season might be drifting away, but there are many, many reasons to be excited for 2022, and Cal Quantrill has become of them.