Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery will always be linked because of their respective roles in getting the last three outs of the Cubs’ World Series Game 7 win, which ended the longest championship drought in American history.
But as we move deeper into the offseason, it is becoming evident why those two were ideal members of a bullpen tasked to get high-leverage outs late in important games.
Earlier this winter, Brett wrote about why Edwards Jr. and Montgomery were exciting because the elite spin rates on their curveballs – and the whiffs that come as a result. More recently, Michael highlighted how Montgomery’s changeup and Edwards Jr.’s four-seam fastball graded out as two of the very best pitches in all of baseball.
So, here we are again with Edwards Jr. and Montgomery on a spin rate list – this time for fastballs.
It’s as if the two are inseparable at this point.
Over at MLB.com, Mike Petriello dives into what Statcast spin rate means for four-seam fastballs. It is important to note Petriello writes there are times where both high and low spin can be good for four-seamers. Further, high and low spin can be good or bad for any pitch, depending on what is being thrown and what is the pitch’s desired result.
Focusing on four-seam fastballs with high spin rates, Edwards Jr.’s 2,659 rpm was the second highest among the 495 pitchers who threw at least 100 four-seamers in 2016.
The top-10 is littered with big-name flamethrowers such as Justin Verlander (2,565), Max Scherzer (2,550), Aroldis Chapman (2,546), and Yu Darvish (2,511), among others.
Far from a brand name, Andrew Bailey (2,674) had a higher spin rate on four-seamers than Edwards Jr or anyone else., though, which goes to show you that spin rate alone doesn’t make a great pitcher. Bailey posted a 5.36 ERA/4.66 FIP/4.56 xFIP in 43.2 innings with the Phillies and Angels.
What’s telling about the high spin rates is that they often result in swings-and-misses. In fact, there is correlation between high-spin fastballs and high swinging strike percentages. But that doesn’t mean low-spin four-seamers can’t be successful, too. Where high-spin fastballs induce whiffs, low-spin fastballs tend to generate ground balls because of the sinking action the pitch has (due to the lower spin).
Montgomery (1,953 rpm) has the ninth-lowest spin rate among pitchers who threw 100 four-seam fastballs in 2016. And it’s fitting for this post to note his 58.4 percent ground ball rate is the highest among these 10 pitchers with wickedly low-spin four-seamers – a group where seven delivered above average ground ball rates, including four at 50 percent or better.
The group features some names familiar to Cubs fans including Cardinals ground ball specialists Miguel Socolovich (1,957) and Seth Maness (1,918), former top-100 prospect Tyrell Jenkins (1,876), who was part of the package sent to Atlanta from St. Louis for Jason Heyward, Brewers hurler Wily Peralta (1,913), and 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey (1,888).
Montgomery will always be linked to an important ground ball in Cubs history. Though, as Michael pointed out on Tuesday, it came on a curveball – not a fastball.