Perspectives: Monty vs... Monty
by Paul Semendinger
August 19, 2022
We know the Yankees have been playing very poorly for a long time now. It's almost been two months. This hasn't been a small sample size. It's been bad, real bad... and it seems to be getting worse. This has been a common attribute under Aaron Boone. The team plays real well and then they play real terribly.
Yesterday, in the comments, the Jordan Montgomery trade came up again. It came up because fans are upset by it. Fans are upset by the trade because it made no sense at the time and it makes less sense as we get further away from it. It was a bad trade, an ill-advised trade, and it looks worse today than it did when the Yankees made it. By all meaningful analysis it was a bad trade. But, let's go back, again, and look at some of the points some of which I didn't touch on at the time...
The big reason that the Yankees gave for trading Montgomery was that he was not going to be part of the post season roster. "He will have no role in October," they said.
Let's examine that a bit because I feel that that statement illustrates, exactly, why the Yankees have been unable to reach a World Series and why they won't unless they change their approach. The Yankees make plans like all teams, but once they make them, they seem unable to modify their plans.
Good Teams Adapt, The Yankees Don't (Or Are Very Slow To) - Yes, all teams must plan ahead, as the Yankees do, but it seems that the Yankees make a plan and stick with it no matter what. All we have to look at is how long they stuck with Aaron Hicks this year. Or how long they batted him in the heart of the order last year. There are a million such examples like that. Also, remember when Joey Gallo had a few hits early this year and then was benched the next day? Aaron Boone's answer for that was "We decided a few days ago that Joey would have that game off." That's just bad. It's terrible. It shows no feel for the players, the game, situations... or anything. This also happened a few years ago when Gleyber Torres was about to set a home run record in Baltimore. He was as hot as a player could be, yet he was sat down because it was his day to sit. That made no sense. The Yankees might be good at planning, but they aren't good at adapting. The Yankees seem to make plans ("If X then Y"), but when the other team does something they didn't plan, or situations change, they seem to have no answer. The Yankees don't adapt well. Along with this is the other essential point which is the big problem with how the Yankees are run and managed...
Deciding in July that Jordan Montgomery Would Not Pitch in October is Simply Very Bad Planning - A smart team does not decide in July what their playoff rotation will look like. They just don't. It makes no sense to make a decision like that in July. But that's the big reason the Yankees gave for making the trade. Think about that. They decided in July that no matter what the circumstances would be that Jordan Montgomery wouldn't pitch in the post season. That makes no sense. It's bad decision making. It's horrible decision making. It's worse than that. It's absurd decision making. A well-run team does not decide who is playing in October in July. And yet, the supporters of the trade continually use that line as justification for the trade.
The Starting Pitching Needed Montgomery And Needs Him Still - Let's take a look at the Yankees starting pitching... Over the last two seasons, Gerrit Cole leads the team in innings. The pitcher who has thrown the second most amount of innings is Jordan Montgomery. Why would Montgomery have no role in October? Why would the Yankees make that decision? If he's that bad, why did the Yankees use him the last tow years more than any pitcher other than Cole? But, more than that, how could the Yankees, or any team, know that their second most reliable pitcher wouldn't have a role three months into the future especially when Nestor Cortes has exceeded his pervious innings total, and Luis Severino was hurt and also exceeding his innings from many many years combined as he returned from injury. Also Montgomery was traded while Jameson Taillon was going through a bad stretch. As such, the Yankees had one seemingly sure thing (Cole) in the rotation - and yet they traded a pitcher who they needed at that moment and who they would (or at least could) logically need in October.
Situations Change (That's Why They Play the Games) - In his last three starts, Jordan Montgomery (pitching for the Cardinals) is 3-0, 0.54. He just did that so it's clear he is capable of pitching that well. One argument is "the other league doesn't know him yet so that's why he's that good lately." (Ok, if that's the case - that he's that good against teams that haven't seen him, then wouldn't he have been the perfect guy to get two starts against the NL team in the World Series?) But more, If Monty did that in his final three starts as a Yankee in September, would the Yankees still not have used him in the playoffs? ("I know you're unhittable now, but back in July, we made a decision and darn it, we're sticking to it no matter what we see now.") If so, that is the problem. Exactly. Clearly. A team deciding in July that a player won't be valuable in October is just bad decision making. It just is. Period. It shows clearly that the decision makers have no feel for the game or the situations. Add to that the fact that the Yankees have no idea how well their other pitchers will be doing or even holding up when October rolls around, and it just compounds how bad the decision making on this was. A smart team does not decide what pitchers they will use in October in July. It's absurd on it's face and by every reasonable measure. Period.
Even If the Yankees Were Correct, They're Wrong - But, let's give the Yankees the benefit of the doubt (even though it makes no sense) and agree that Montgomery would have no role in October... Knowing that (or assuming that) also makes the trade a bad one. The Yankees have starting pitchers on innings limits. They have a host of pitchers who have or who are getting close to that limit. Wouldn't it have made more sense then to limit those pitchers' innings? By getting rid of Montgomery, the Yankees have to rely even more on Cortes, Taillon, and Cole. They also had to send Clarke Schmidt, an injury risk himself, to the minors to get "stretched out." Wouldn't it have been better to have a workhorse from the past two seasons take some of that strain off the rest of the staff? Of course it would have. 100%. If they weren't going to use Montgomery in the playoffs, using him in August and September would have benefitted the pitchers they were going to use.
The Monty Who Replaced Him Isn't (Much) Better (If He Is Even Better at All) -And now, let's look at Monty vs... Monty. The big idea is that Frankie Montas has replaced Jordan Montgomery so the Yankees, at least in that regard, are better. Yeah? No. The fact is, Frankie Montas is not all that much better than Montgomery when one looks at the facts and the numbers:
First, Montgomery is a lefty. The Yankees need lefties. Montas throws right-handed. In that regard, it's not a great exchange.
WAR (2022 - before the trade): Montas (1.6), Montgomery (1.2)
WAR (2021): Montas (3.6), Montgomery (3.4)
Innings (2022 - before the trade): Montas (104), Montgomery (114)
WHIP (2022 - before the trade): Montas (1.137), Montgomery (1.099)
You can go down and look at all the numbers... one thing is clear, Monty and Monty have very similar results. VERY similar results. Can an argument be made that Montas is slightly better? Yes. Is he a significant upgrade? No. This is especially true when one looks at Frankie Montas' Home vs Road Splits. Montas' success in 2022 has come in Oakland (2.87 ERA). On the road, he hasn't pitched well (5.80).
Let's go back to that decision making in July. "Montgomery has no role in the post season, but we're going to rely on a guy whose numbers are helped by pitching in Oakland even though, absolutely and positively, we won't be playing in Oakland in October." It just does not make any sense.
The Yankees Needed Starting Pitching, But They Didn't Add Any -The Yankees went into the trade deadline needing at least one starting pitcher. They added Frankie Montas. That was good. They then subtracted Jordan Montgomery putting them right back to square one. There was no gain. That was bad. In fact, because they needed a starter and didn't add one, an argument can be made that they took a step backwards. Just when it looked like the Yankees were going "all-in," they made a trade that set them backwards. Or, if the argument is that Montas replaced Montgomery, all it did was slightly improve them.
Harrison Bader Has Given The Yankees No Value - Then there is the argument that Harrison Bader will help the Yankees in 2022. In the weeks since the trade, of course, he has provided no value. Zero. Even if he was only a league average pitcher, Jordan Montgomery would have provided value these last few weeks and in the weeks going forward. Bader is giving none. Zero. That's a net loss and will be a loss every week going forward until Bader plays, which no one still knows when that will be. (He's going to have to be tremendously valuable to be able to make up for all the weeks that Montgomery pitched while he was injured and not playing. And, sorry, no one is that valuable.)
The 2023 Argument Is Significantly Flawed - An argument is made that Bader is locked up for 2023 so it was a good move for the future. Really? Won't the Yankees also need starting pitching in 2023? Will Jameson Taillon be a Yankee in 2023? Will Luis Severino? Wouldn't the 2023 Yankees rotation look at least a bit better if they had Jordan Montgomery? Whatever gain Bader might give is negated by the fact that they lost Montgomery who would have had a role in 2023. Montgomery was under team control. The Yankees will head into the off-season needing starting pitching. That is very clear. At the trade deadline, they sent away most of their top young pitchers and a key rotation piece.
Are Do-Overs Allowed? - Let me ask a question... If the Yankees today offered Frankie Montas and Harrison Bader to the Cardinals in a trade for Jordan Montgomery, would the Cardinals make that trade? I don't think they would. And there, we see, clearly, just how flawed the Yankees decision making was.