Quentin driven to become better hitter
Slugger focused on driving in runs, not home runs
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A Major League Baseball distinction exists, held by Carlos Quentin, which is so remote that, well, Quentin doesn't even know about it.
Need proof? Just ask him.
"Is it something to do with hit by pitches in consecutive games?" asked Quentin, when this question was posed to the White Sox right fielder before a recent Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch.
Yes, that statement actually is true, as Quentin was hit by a pitch in six straight games from Aug. 7-14, 2008. Not what we are looking for here, though.
In the history of the game, no player whose last name begins with the letter "Q" has more home runs than Quentin. That's right, not Robb Quinlan, Mark Quinn or Jamie Quirk can top Quentin's total of 71 over four big league seasons.
Granted, Quentin's total doesn't nearly rank with Hank Aaron for "A" (755), Ken Griffey Jr. for "G" (630) or Jim Thome for "T" (564). But Quentin certainly stands out as one of the true power hitters among the White Sox lineup.
The main technicality Quentin points out, and it's an important one, is that he is not a home run hitter.
"I'm fortunate that sometimes when I make solid contact, the ball goes out of the park," said Quentin of his long ball theory. "By no means am I ever up there trying to hit home runs, just because I know that I can't be successful achieving my goals if I'm trying to do it.
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Asked for a spur-of-the-moment list of the game's true home run hitters, Quentin came up with Thome, Ryan Howard and Carlos Pena. Quentin hit 36 home runs during his Most Valuable Player-caliber effort in 2008 and launched 21 during an injury-plagued 99 games in 2009.
Yet, he doesn't rank in this elite group even on the most potent of days, by Quentin's educated estimation.
"Those guys have amazing power," Quentin said. "You can see their swings, how the impacts off the bat are substantial, and the backspin created from their swings is impressive.
"You know, I'm sure they know when they are feeling good with their swing and can hit a home run when they want. I doubt they are up there trying to hit a home run every time.
"They are big-time power hitters," Quentin said. "But they are also very good hitters in their own right."
A greater focus on power figures to be placed upon Quentin with the 2010 White Sox because of the departures of 2009 long-ball threats Thome and Jermaine Dye. Although manager Ozzie Guillen has preached more of a speed-based attack, the White Sox won't be able to succeed at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field without a few bona fide threats to clear the fences.
There's Paul Konerko and Quentin listed as the team's sluggers with 30-home run potential. But in reality, Guillen doesn't care if Quentin hits 35 home runs or 30 home runs or even 25.
His focus lies upon scoring runs, in any way possible.
"Give me doubles with people on base," Guillen said. "When you have a home run hitting team, you're going to strike out a lot. That's what happened to us the past few years. Good teams, don't get me wrong. But we struck out a lot with people in scoring position.
"I don't know how many home runs we're going to hit. I really care how many runs we're going to score. That's a different thing. Home runs, yeah, 40 home runs, 50 RBIs. Give me 20 home runs and 50 RBIs.
"We have to make things happen and it's up to the players when we put a play on, just execute," Guillen said. "I know we're going to make mistakes and swing and miss, but if we execute good enough, we'll be fine."
Guillen told Andruw Jones, the team's right-handed designated hitter and when healthy, the owner of big-time home run potential, not to worry about 30 home runs. He would rather have 30 stolen bases.
Quentin has never swiped more than seven bases in a big league season, so 30 is not an option, but he is a skilled hitter with a keen batting eye at the plate. In fact, Quentin sometimes falls into a rut when he gets too caught up swinging for the fences.
When Quentin works the count, takes his walks and uses the entire field, then his game on offense is at its best. At that time, as Guillen pointed out, the home runs will come.
"It goes with the count," said Quentin of hitting home runs. "If you get the count that's favorable and the situation, it's not looking for a pitch to hit the ball out of the park but I'm looking for the ball to make contact out in front a little bit more.
"Get something in the air. That's the shot I take. It's something where I'm trying to move the point of contact in front of me a little bit and take my chances of making contact to see what happens.
"With the more I learn about hitting and the adjustments I made in my swing, I developed more strength as I got older," Quentin said. "I was seeing how the ball would react as I hit the ball squarely. It made me open my eyes to the fact that this could be a facet of the game I have the potential to achieve."
Oh, yes, Quentin has achieved in the category of home run hitting, to the point where any upstart featuring the last name starting with "Q" has a long road to travel.
"That is something I can tell everyone about," said Quentin with a laugh.
He would just as much like to talk about the less spectacular contributions as part of what he hopes will be another big individual season like 2008, as part of an American League Central title.
"As a player, that's something I want to achieve repeatedly and I do have the potential to have a year like 2008," Quentin said. "In order to have a chance to do that, I have to go about it in a systematic way which doesn't include doing it all immediately. It's about driving in guys the right way, picking up all the RBIs that are not the highlight RBIs, the manufactured, the smart RBIs.
"Gaining confidence from that. It's how you have a good year, gaining confidence from the small pieces put together to where you feel confident enough to do damage."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.