Cerebral Quentin puts team first
Slugger strives to be better hitter, but not at expense of Sox
ST. PETERSBURG -- If a Ph.D. was given in the art of hitting, then let's just say Carlos Quentin already has put in enough hours within the subject to earn that advanced degree.
Quentin's talent with the bat stepped to the forefront of the American League in 2008, when he was arguably the Most Valuable Player before breaking a bone in his right wrist and missing the season's final month. With four home runs and eight RBIs entering Thursday's series opener at Tropicana Field, Quentin already has begun to prove that he certainly doesn't belong on the list of one-hit wonders.
Those personal numbers are not what drive Quentin. It's taking his .288 average, 36 home runs and 100 RBIs from last year and having them fit into an AL Central title. Quentin often makes in-game adjustments simply geared toward helping the White Sox win on a given night, as he carefully explained in detail before facing the Rays.
"Every hitter makes, I believe, some type of adjustments that can't always necessarily work in the immediate future," Quentin said. "So, there's an element to let that go for a second while you are playing the game and go back to simple things that you do to give yourself the best chance to compete and help the team win.
"That's the key to being a good hitter, being able to do something to produce when you are not feeling optimum."
To cut to the crux of Quentin's advanced theory in hitting, basically the All-Star is stating how adjustments he makes to help himself often have to be given up for the greater good of the White Sox. That selflessness shines through in Quentin's .394 on-base percentage in 2008 and a .429 on-base percentage through eight games this year.
Even when Quentin started the 2009 campaign with an 0-for-7 funk, he still managed to reach base four times before that first hit came in the ninth inning of the third game. It's that sort of patience that leads manager Ozzie Guillen to have the ultimate confidence in his left fielder's ability to fight through slumps.
"Carlos is a good hitter because when he's not swinging the bat well, he can still walk and all that stuff," Guillen said. "Right now, I think he's swinging the bat better and he can do a lot of things when he's hot.
"One thing about Carlos is I don't worry because he's a pro. He's a tremendous guy, smart kid, and I don't think he has to carry this ballclub. Carlos is another player out there. He's going to help the rest of the guys. He's got eight more teammates that can help him."
Where hitting is concerned, Quentin is about doing all he can to help himself. He's a tireless worker, taking dry swings throughout the White Sox clubhouse and in the team's dugout, a trait now immortalized in one of the commercials promoting White Sox traditions.
It's not so much about the results for Quentin, as much as it is about finding the right feel at the plate. The study continues for the cerebral hitter, trying to perfect a discipline that's almost impossible to perfect.
"You know, I never want to focus on past experience," Quentin said. "I can only learn from past experience. Sometimes I feel I've developed an understanding of my swing and what I need to be able to do to give me the best chance to do well and play. Any time you go through slumps, you need to be able to come back to something simple so your mind can clear and everything comes back in place."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.