On Mike Montgomery's Great Start and Future with the Cubs

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On Mike Montgomery’s Great Start and Future with the Cubs

Chicago Cubs News

mike montgomery cubs

While I was writing up the bullets this morning, I started getting a little long-winded on Mike Montgomery’s excellent start against the Brewers last night – too much so for a single bullet.

So I stopped writing, dropped in a little love, and promised to get back to both him and his start later today. And guess what time it is!

Mike Montgomery’s number was called yesterday, on a day where the Cubs could have clinched the division at home with a win against the Brewers.

Of course, that was not to be, but that doesn’t mean Montgomery didn’t put the Cubs in a position to succeed. By the time he left the game after the sixth inning, his final line was his best as a starter all year: 6 IP, 4H, 3R (1ER), 1 BB, 7 Ks, and underscored some of the hidden upside lurking in his arm. While I have no expectations for Montgomery to join the playoff rotation (absent a rash of injuries) any time soon, he remains an important part of the team for both this and the following years.

So let’s jump right back into his start, and see what he did right.

When going through the data at Brooks Baseball, it’s hard not come away both shocked and impressed by Montgomery’s start. In his six innings against the Brewers, he was able to record an astounding 19 whiffs – the majority of which came against his curveball (which Maddon labeled “premium”) and his changeup. But, as we know, he’s not just an offspeed guy. Montgomery’s fastball sat at 93.5 MPH last night and just about reached up to 95 MPH at its height – adding four whiffs on its own. That’s a pretty formidable combination of pitches, and it squares with what we know of Montgomery’s potential (and pedigree as a former top prospect).

In fact, Montgomery has improved in each of his last three starts for the Cubs, with last night being the best of the bunch. Miguel Montero, for one, took notice and claimed that he looked especially sharp, and would have had a perfectly clean game if it weren’t for just one or two (immediately pounced on) mistakes.

You can relive his start (and hear what Maddon had to say about it), below:

For the season as a whole, Montgomery has a 2.66 ERA (3.77 FIP), but has split time as a starter and a reliever. Not unlike Adam Warren before him, however, Montgomery’s future with the Cubs may yet lie in the rotation. So, let’s take a quick peak at his numbers as a starter in 2016.

Mike Montgomery has made seven starts in 2016 (two with the Mariners and five with the Cubs). During those games, he’s collected a 3.28 ERA, while allowing opponents to hit just .215/.306/.450 off him (slugging is obviously a bit high, but those are generally pretty good results). While his walk rate during that stretch is a touch high (9.5%) as well, his strikeout rate has been above average (23.1%).

But there’s more to like than that.

Among pitchers with at least 90 innings this season, Montgomery leads the league in ground ball/fly ball ratio, thanks to the third highest ground ball rate (58.1%) and single lowest fly ball rate (19.4%) in MLB. While that may ultimately lead to some higher averages when the ball is put in play, it should also help to limit the damage (ground balls rarely go for extra bases).

In addition, Mike Montgomery has the sixth lowest hard-hit rate (25.6%) among pitchers with at least 90 innings this year – just behind both Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs pretty clearly have a type (lots of soft contact, very little hard contact) and Mike Montgomery fits the mold – look what that model has done for Kyle Hendricks this year.

The immediate future isn’t entirely clear for Montgomery, but according to Joe Maddon, he’ll will likely take one more start down the stretch, before things are decided for the playoffs. Should he make the playoff roster, however, it’ll almost certainly be as a long-man/lefty out of the pen.

After that, however, there’ll be a chance for him to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training 2017 -but that’s a story for another time