The Chicago White Sox, my pick to win the AL Central this season, continue to struggle in 2011, with their record now 30-34 for the season. One of the bright spots in the White Sox lineup has been the reemergence of the 2008 version of Carlos Quentin.
In last night's loss to the Mariners, Quentin hit two home runs (his 16th and 17th of the year) and improved his overall line to .271/.373/.596. Quentin possesses career highs in ISO (.326), wOBA (.416) and wRC+ (164). His ISO is the second best in baseball behind Jose Bautista, and his wOBA and wRC+ are tenth in the majors.
What has allowed Quentin to regain his 2008 form? One misconception is that Quentin has increased his strength as an aspect of staying healthy this season. His HR/FB ratio of 16.7 percent does not indicate increased overall strength. He posted a 14.8 and a 14.1 percent in 2009 and 2010, making this year's number only a two percent increase, and it is still significantly lower compared to his 20.4 percent in 2008.
Quentin may have lost some of his strength after injuring himself in 2008, but his home run numbers have increased because he is hitting fly balls at an increased rate. So far in 2011, Quentin has hit fly balls at a 56 percent rate (ten percent higher than his career), and he has increased that rate in every season.
In terms of plate discipline and contact, Quentin's numbers, in addition to his walk rates, have held steady over the last few seasons. His batting average has improved, despite a BABIP of .255 and an infield fly ball percentage of 19.6 percent. His average has increased because of the amount of home runs, and his batting average will always rely on the amount of home runs he hits.
Quentin's average should drop over time, but if he continues to hit fly balls, he should reach his career high of 36, set in 2008. Quentin will never completely return to the player he was that year, but he seems to realize his strengths, and continues to play to them.