The reason behind Jordan Montgomery dominating for the Yankees

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

In 2021 Jordan Montgomery established himself as a solid starter for the Yankees. With a 3.83 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and 4.07 SIERA, he proved he’s more than just a 5 in your rotation. Montgomery had some doubters, but in 2022 he’s proving said doubters wrong. So far this season, he has improved on all of his peripheral and run prevention metrics, all while pitching deeper into games as well. This isn’t some fluke either, while I expect ERA regression from a 2.70 ERA, I also think he ends the season with a better ERA than what he had in 2021, even when adjusting for the low run-scoring environment in 2022. His pitch selection has improved, his stuff is better than ever, and Jordan Montgomery is here to stay.

Improved Sinking Fastball

Jordan Montgomery‘s sinker is moving more than it did in 2021, and it’s become his primary fastball. Montgomery’s sinker is much more equipped to jam hitters with 16.9″ of horizontal movement (also known as run) compared to 15.5″ the year prior. This has led to a spike in his groundball rate, with his 48.2% GB% ranking 16th in MLB. He avoids the barrel of the bat more than he did last year, boasting a mere 5.0% Barrel% (2.4% lower than 2021). His sinker bodes well in Statcast’s Run-Value metric as well, a metric that’s defined as “the run impact of an event based on the runners on base, outs, ball and strike count.” At -8 Run Value, his sinker is the 5th best pitch in terms of positively impacting run prevention. Last year, his sinker had a 5 Run Value, ranked 318th out of 353 pitchers.

The reason this is so important for Montgomery is that he’ll always be prone to bloop hits. When you give up a lot of soft contact, you’re prone to greater batted ball variance, leading to some unlucky hits. This is mediated when you give up a lot of groundballs and can get double plays instead of having to grind batter to batter to collect three outs when you’re getting blooped. No batted ball has a worse OPS than groundballs, and it’s been Montgomery’s calling card this season.

Attacking Batters More Than Ever

It’s no secret that getting ahead in a count is really important for good pitchers. Jordan Montgomery last year walked 7.7% of batters faced, an issue that stemmed from his habit of “nibbling.” In 2022 he’s attacked hitters more, as evident by his walk rate. In 2021 he walked 7.7% of batters, in 2022? A mere 3.8% BB%. When you’re a pitcher who relies on getting groundballs on your fastball and swings and misses on offspeed and breaking balls, it’s imperative to not allow free passes. His 3.8% BB% is the 5th lowest mark among qualified pitchers, and it’s allowed him to be hyper-efficient and pitch deeper into games. Part of being a frontline starter is the ability to provide volume on top of good per rate stats, and Montgomery has taken that in stride, and it’s a huge part of his progression.

He’s pitched like an ace this season, ranking 23rd in Win Probability Added among all qualified starting pitchers. If there’s a pitcher Jordan Montgomery bears the most resemblance to, it’s one of the greatest Yankees of all time.

Pitching Like Pettitte

In Andy Pettitte’s prime, from 1997-2005, he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Not only did he generate strong per rate stats, but he also had a ton of volume, which made him super valuable. Let’s take a look at his adjusted stats and compare them to Jordan Montgomery:

Andy Pettitte (1997-2005):
82 ERA-
79 FIP-
115 GB%+
106 K%+
81 BB%+

Jordan Montgomery (2021-2022):
84 ERA-
85 FIP-
105 GB%+
101 K%+
78 BB%+

Let me do a quick rundown of the stats listed here. ERA-, FIP-, and BB%+ are adjusted Earned Run Average, Fielding Independent Pitching, and Walk Percentage, they adjust for the run environment of your league, with the objective to be below 100 (which represents average). For example, Montgomery’s 84 ERA- means he’s 16% better at preventing runs than the average starter from 2021-2022.

K%+ and GB%+ are adjusted Strikeout Percentage and Groundball Percentage. Unlike with ERA-, FIP-, and BB+, you want this metric to be higher than 100. For example, Pettitte’s 115 GB%+ means his groundball rate was 15% better than the average starter pitching from 1997-2005.

As you can see here, obviously, Pettitte is the better pitcher; one is a borderline HOFer, and the other is a good pitcher. That being said, they pitch extremely similarly. Both rely on low walk rates, solid strikeout rates, and a ton of groundballs. Pettitte and Montgomery prevent runs at a similar rate, and both could grind through games to get outs. If Montgomery leans on this style of pitching going forward, he’s going to be a bulldog in this rotation and push to get big starts in October.

Jordan Montgomery has taken that next step as a starter for the Yankees, and it’s hard to imagine that after last year he could have gotten better, yet here we are. Gumby is that guy, and fans should take notice.