Yankees face a big starting pitching problem

Alexander Wilson
frankie montas, yankees
Aug 29, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas (47) throws to the plate in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are staring down the barrel of a big starting pitching problem after another inefficient performance from Frankie Montas against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.

The Yankees had the game all but locked up in the second inning, leading 5–0. However, Montas gave up four earned runs over 3.1 innings, giving Milwaukee an opportunity to fight back. The Yanks completely embarrassed Brewers’ starting pitcher Adrian Houser, tallying seven hits and four ER over 3.0 innings. Unfortunately, the Bombers’ big trade deadline acquisition was unable to get anything going.

Montas has been remarkably ineffective since joining the Yankees, hosting a 6.35 ERA and 4.69 xFIP. His strikeouts have dropped from 9.37 with the Oakland Athletics to 7.49 wearing pinstripes. He’s also featuring a 66% left on base rate and giving up 1.36 home runs per nine, one of the worst numbers in his career.

Why are the Yankees getting this version of Frankie Montas?

It is hard to determine exactly why Montas is struggling so much — maybe the pressure of being a Yankee is too much for him? He’s given up eight earned runs over his last 14 innings and eight runs over his last 9.0 innings.

With manager Aaron Boone considering Montas a prime playoff starting pitcher, this is not what the Yankees wanted to see from a player they spent big on during the acquisition to feature as the team’s No. 2 behind Gerrit Cole. At this rate, not only is Nestor Cortes in line to be the second option in the playoffs, but Montas making a good argument that he shouldn’t even be in the starting slot to begin with.

If he continues to struggle, the Yankees would be wise to continue giving starting opportunities to Luis Severino, potentially rolling into the postseason with a four-man rotation that has Savy and Montas at the backend. Whichever pitcher performs better stays in, and the other is relegated to the bullpen, but after two months of uninspiring play from Frankie, the Yankees have to make a tough decision if he continues to struggle.

Montas has about two starts left before the postseason rolls around, a decent enough sample size for the Yankees to get an idea of how he’s progressing, whether that be upward or downward.

The Yankees simply can’t be losing games they have a five-run lead in after just two innings, which is why Montas blowing this game certainly presents a significant issue down the stretch.

The numbers show a change in pitch sequence:

Looking at his advanced metrics, Montas has much more reliance on his 4-seam fastball since joining the Yankees, elevating to 36% this month after sitting at 22.9% in July with Oakland. He began throwing his slider a bit more frequently, and his sinker has dropped off to 16.2% from 27% last month.

It seems as if the Yankees are messing with his pitch usage, seeing significant spikes after a pretty consistent start to the year with the Athletics. Maybe they want to revert back to what he was doing before and the mechanics he had when acquired rather than trying to fix what’s not broken.