Mike Montgomery Is The Real Deal


When Mike Montgomery first came up to the majors, it was with basically zero fanfare. Despite cries from some (read: me) for his arrival weeks earlier, it was clear that the team viewed him as no more than an emergency option, a true seventh starter in a rotation that would be best off without him. Nobody thought much of the guy, no matter how long he kept his AAA ERA under four.

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Look at him now. Last night against the same Kansas City Royals team that drafted him in 2008, Montgomery pitched a four-hit shutout, going the distance while striking out ten against zero walks. It was one of the best pitching performances in baseball this season, and helped raise Montgomery’s WAR total to 0.8 in only his first 35.1 career innings.

Montgomery has now provided the Mariners with more value than any member of their pitching staff other than Felix Hernandez and J.A. Happ, and in only five starts. He’s coupled his hair-below-pedestrian strikeout numbers with a strong walk rate and a relative lack of home runs (or hard-hit balls, for that matter). Montgomery’s blowing his minor league track record out of the water at this point.

Is it sustainable? Not quite, of course. That’s a 2.04 ERA you see there, and it’s not going to last for the duration of Montgomery’s career. But a 2.99 FIP shows that this isn’t entirely a fluke. Like I said, his peripherals seem to be balancing out alright. Seems like Montgomery is at least a good pitcher, if not the top-of-the-rotation type he’s been this month. Not an ace, but MLB-caliber for sure.

One might worry that Montgomery’s 2.04 BB/9 will regress, and that certainly does seem likely given his minor league track record. But if you’re to expect more walks, then it wouldn’t be all too unreasonable to expect more K’s, too, as Montgomery has always been above his current 5.60 K/9 mark in the minors. The two big things within a pitcher’s control seem likely to regress, but each in a direction that will help Montgomery stay successful going forward.

There’s also a 0.25 HR/9 and a .234 BABIP driving this run, and those are the numbers that seem bound to regress and make Monty a back-end starter. More flies will leave the yard, more hits will drop in front of defenders… and that’s fine! Nobody’s asking Mike Montgomery to make an opening day start, you know. Even with more hits and more homers, Montgomery looks like he’ll be fine. Better than fine, actually.

James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma won’t be out forever, and when they return Montgomery is probably first in line for a return trip to the minor leagues. He’ll go down with the rotation’s best ERA, and he’ll go down as one of the best sixth/seventh starters in all of baseball. Mike Montgomery has been a revelation, and it looks like he’s the real deal. Which is kind of exciting.