By Andy Singer July 22, 2020
Photo Courtesy of Robert Sabo
There were many days during which I felt like baseball wouldn’t happen in 2020. I’ve finally relaxed enough to enjoy the fact that the Yankees have been on the field the last few days, and it felt…almost normal? I dare say that I am as excited as I would normally be for Opening Day. Given my level of excitement, I don’t want to complain about a few questionable roster decisions for the initial 30-man roster, though one of the snubs is the focus of my post. Jordan Montgomery will not begin the season on the Yankee roster, but that is more due to a logistical roster maneuver than anything else; Monty will likely make his first start of the season before the calendar turns to August. For today though, I’d like to revisit a topic I broached just as the world was turned upside down back in March.
During Spring Training 1.0, I watched Jordan Montgomery very closely to see how he would look after his first normal off-season post-Tommy John Surgery, as we really didn’t get a representative look at his progress besides his token appearance at the end of the 2019 season. Though the look was short, I was impressed by what Monty showed midway through Yankee camp in March. Most importantly, I noted that Montgomery’s fastball appeared to be up a tick from what we had seen in his rookie season in 2017. I based my analysis in that article on the fact that the radar gun at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa showed a higher concentration of 93 and 94 MPH fastballs than we’re used to seeing from Monty. To make a long story short, a guy like Monty who uses the art of deception, command, a varied pitch mix, and changing speeds to survive can benefit greatly from even a modest velocity bump. Well, after Montgomery’s lone Summer Training start, we have data from Statcast to generate some early conclusions.
In my March post, I based everything I wrote off of a theoretical 1 MPH bump on both Monty’s Four-Seam Fastball and his Sinker. For reference those pitches were clocked at an average of 91.9 MPH and 91.7 MPH in 2017, respectively. Using resources available at Baseball Savant, I compiled every fastball Monty threw on Sunday and averaged them. Here are the results:
Monty’s 7/19 Fastball Velocity Readings Compiled Using Baseball Savant (Click To Enlarge)
That’s a pretty clear bump in velocity! The numbers are even more interesting when Four-Seam Fastballs are separated from Sinkers:
Monty’s 7/19 Sinker Velocity Readings Compiled Using Baseball Savant (Click To Enlarge)
Monty’s 7/19 Four-Seam Fastball Velocity Readings Compiled Using Baseball Savant (Click To Enlarge)
Based on the numbers compiled above, Monty’s Sinker velocity is up by .5 MPH and his Four-Seam Fastball is up by nearly 1 MPH. Frankly, the Four-Seam Fastball average velocity may be diluted slightly by the final velocity reading on the list, as I believe that Statcast may have incorrectly classified a cutter (a new pitch for Monty!) as a Four-Seam Fastball. In any case, Montgomery definitely has more zip on his array of fastballs.
Monty certainly used his newfound velocity to great affect in his tune-up outing against the Mets on Sunday, striking out 6 while requiring just 59 pitches to get through 5 innings of work. It is important to note that the Mets put a representative lineup on the field, so Monty had to navigate a lineup with contact-machine, Jeff McNeil, reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso, and great hitters like Michael Conforto and JD Davis. Montgomery had above-average K-rates even with below-average velocity in his rookie season, so it’s possible that the elevated K-rate Monty has boasted throughout both Spring Training and Summer Training are here to stay.
Even with additional velocity, Montgomery has continued to evolve, adding a cutter that ranged from 88-91 MPH to his sweet collection of off-speed and breaking stuff. Montgomery was forced to constantly evolve when he had below-average velocity, but the fact that he continues to do that now that he has closer to average velocity is a huge positive for his career trajectory.
I was bullish on Monty returning to his rookie form even prior to the season. The now confirmed bump in velocity combined with performance to back it up has me grinning from ear-to-ear about Monty’s ability to shore up the Yankee rotation in 2020 and beyond. Monty is finally poised to build on an excellent start to his career, and solidify himself as a mid-rotation cog in the Yankee machine.