In one important way, 2020 was a runaway success for Jordan Montgomery. After pitching just 31.1 innings between 2018-2019 thanks to Tommy John Surgery, Monty got back on the bump in 2020 and threw 44 innings for the Yankees across ten starts.
Despite an ugly 5.11 ERA, he managed some great peripherals: 3.87 FIP (85 FIP-); 24.4% K; 4.7% BB; 42.9% GB. According to Statcast, he was in the 95th and 88th percentiles, respectively, for exit velocity (84.6) and hard contact rate (29.9) against.
Even that ERA is perhaps a touch misleading. He had two really awful starts: a 4 inning, 5 run clunker against the Phillies in August and a 0.2 inning, 4 run nightmare of a start against Tampa in September.
Health alone would’ve made 2020 successful for Montgomery, but there were also results that made it so as well. Like everyone, though, he could still stand to improve in 2021, specifically in two areas: line drives and length.
Despite his low numbers in terms of exit velocity and hard contact, Montgomery gave up a lot of line drives: nearly a 30% clip. Interestingly, this came with a big drop in fly ball percentage (16.4%). It’s possible that this may’ve saved Monty some home run problems, but that many line drives is something you’d want to avoid.
The last bit Montgomery will want to improve on in 2021 is going deeper into games. In 2020, he threw over 90 pitches just twice and reached the sixth inning only four times (in fairness, rain affected one of those outings). This isn’t something to quibble with too much considering he was coming off Tommy John Surgery. However, to help preserve the bullpen in the playoffs — something the Yankees haven’t done much of lately — he’ll need to go a bit deeper. It’s worth noting, though, that coming off the pandemic-shortened season, the Yankees are likely to be cautious with every starter’s workload, not just Montgomery’s.
Despite not occupying a top or number two spot in the rotation, Jordan Montgomery has a chance to make a big impact for the Yankees in 2021. He’s talented and has shown he can hang in the majors before; if he pitches to that potential again, not many teams can say they have a fourth starter that good.