Yesterday, we discussed Mike Montgomery’s potential as a starting pitcher, both as a fill-in for the rest of this season and as a member of the official rotation for many years after that …
… and then he went out and pitched a gem.
Thanks for the timing, Mike.
Filling in for an injured Jon Lester in just his ninth start of the year (although it’s worth pointing out that he’s already topped 100 IP), Montgomery went six scoreless innings against the Reds, allowing just four hits and one walk against four strikeouts.
That effort was good for a Game Score of 70, a number the other Cubs’ starters have not matched or topped many times this season before last night:
Kyle Hendricks – 0
Brett Anderson – 0
Jose Quintana – 1
Eddie Butler – 1
John Lackey – 1
Brett Anderson – 1
Mike Montgomery – 1
Jake Arrieta – 2
Jon Lester – 7
If you exclude Jon Lester, the guy Montgomery is stepping in for, the Cubs have had just seven starts with an equal or better game score than Montgomery’s 70-effort last night, and one of those starts belonged to Montgomery, himself! Put differently, two of the Cubs’ 14 best starts this season belong Montgomery, their sixth starter.
That’s genuninely nuts. But it’s also accurately reflective of his abilities and potential as a starter. You can catch highlights from Montgomery’s performance right here at Cubs.com – we’re going to take a closer look below.
According to Brooks, Montgomery didn’t get a ton of whiffs last night (4), but he did throw his fastball for a strike about 80% of the time, which allowed him to keep the walks to a minimum, and do what he does best: get ground balls.
Indeed, when I was watching the game last night, I sure felt like I saw a lot of ground balls, but when I checked FanGraphs this morning I was blown away. Of the 17 balls allowed in play yesterday, 14 went on the ground (82.4 GB%), and only two of those grounders went for hits.
For the season, now, Montgomery has an elite 59.0% ground ball rate, which ranks 5th(!) among pitchers with at least 100 IP. Typically, you might expect more than a .235 BABIP on a night like that (that is, with so many grounders), but Montgomery’s tiny 17.7% hard-hit rate and stellar 29.4% soft-hit rate help explain the extra dose of “luck.”
For what it’s worth, Joe Maddon recognized exactly what Montgomery did well last night and applauded it.
“He’s very capable of doing something like that,” manager Joe Maddon said via Cubs.com. “He had good fastball command, he forced the hitters to put his pitch into play.” Later, Maddon added that Montgomery is “supposed” to throw strikes, implying that he’s the sort of pitcher who’ll get by with outings like this, more than the type that posts big strikeout numbers, and that’s just what he did. Neat.
In all likelihood, Montgomery will make one more start this season – likely for Lester on Monday – and then shift back into the bullpen for the remainder of the year. A six-man rotation is always possible, but with the postseason more likely now than ever, the Cubs will probably want Montgomery back in reliever mode the rest of the way.
But next season, well, the Cubs may have found their fourth or fifth starter.