I’ve been a bit skeptical of Mike Montgomery ever since his rough 2011 campaign got under way. I knew there were some lingering control (and injury) issues there, but I never thought they’d manifest themselves into the rough outings we saw with Omaha last year. It was especially surprising after he had such a solid Spring Training.
So, I was even more concerned that we might never see Montgomery reach his potential when this season started off with two starts over 7.2 innings, with Monty giving up seven runs, 14 hits, and seven walks while striking out six. We all know Monty is a strikeout guy. That’s one thing he can definitely do. But the walks just piled up and increased the amount of pessimism over his future.
Then things changed.
In his next three starts, Monty threw 20 innings. He gave up 18 hits and seven earned runs. He struck out 16. And you know what? He walked just four batters.
Think about that for a second. He went from walking about as many as he struck out to striking out four times as many as he walked. And the change has lingered over three games, with Monty walking just one in each of his last two starts. Add in that his groundout-to-flyout ratio has been well over one on the season (1.90) and things are starting to look a bit cheerier.
Now, small sample size warnings apply. Monty still gave up a few runs in each of the last two games. I wasn’t there to see what actually happened or how he looked, so that’s a warning as well. Still, last year, Monty didn’t give up fewer than two walks in a game until June 19, when he pitched just three innings and struck out one, giving up nine runs in the process. And in his first five starts of 2011, Monty dished out 15 walks rather than the 11 in his first five this year. Even though the ERA sits at a not-so-pretty 4.57, his FIP is a nice 3.66, which is the lowest he’s had since that ridiculous stint with Wilmington in 2010.* To make matters even more interesting, he’s had a .353 BABIP so far this season, the highest he’s had in non-AFL ball over his career.
*Just to compare, his FIP last season was 4.30.
So, there might be something there. Maybe. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. Part of the problem he may face (and this is absolute conjecture) is just regaining confidence in his pitching. He was solid through AA in 2010, but then faltered. And that may make it difficult to recover. But as he’s succeeding now and pitching well, it’s worth considering that he may find that groove again. Whether that translates to a full season of success is impossible to say, but fun to speculate on.
I guess what it comes down to is that Monty is making a stronger case for a chance at a rotation (or temporary bullpen) spot than he ever has. With pitching in Kansas City consisting of a, shall we say, questionable quality, this may be a good time to try Monty out around midseason, depending on where things sit by then. It all depends on whether he can keep throwing strikes and avoiding giving out walks, but if that continues like it has the last few games, we should be ready to see Monty in Royals blue rather than Chasers blue.
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