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Has Jordan Montgomery been held back by the Yankees’ offensive struggles?

Some of Monty’s recent pitching efforts have gone to waste because the Yankees failed to score runs.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Yankees’ offensive woes are no secret. Despite a team filled with supposed power-hitting sluggers, the 2021 Yankees have struggled to produce timely hits. Acquiring Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo certainly provided the Yankees’ lineup with a boost and they’ve recently feasted on bad Orioles pitching, but their arrival doesn’t change the fact that overall, the Yankees have been among the league’s worst teams at actually scoring runs in 2021. And they’re especially bad at scoring runs when Jordan Montgomery is on the mound.

That the Yankees struggle to provide run support for any of their pitchers is unsurprising, considering how many double plays they ground into and how poorly they hit with runners on base. Before the All-Star Break, the Yankees’ lineup had a hard time scoring runs, period, regardless of who was on the mound.

But even relative to the rest of the Yankees’ starting rotation, Montgomery has been deprived of run support. By a significant margin, Monty has received less run support during the current 2021 season than any other Yankees starter.

How much less? To understand Monty’s run support stats in 2021, I compared his run support numbers to those of other starting pitchers on the Yankees. For those unfamiliar with run support metrics, RS/GS (runs scored/games started) reflects the average number of runs scored by a team in games the pitcher started; RS/IP (runs scored/innings pitched) measures the average amount of runs scored by a team while a particular pitcher is in the game, on the mound.

Run support for Yankees’ starting pitchers

Name IP Games Started RS/GS RS/IP
Name IP Games Started RS/GS RS/IP
Gerrit Cole 130.1 21 3.6 3.7
Jameson Taillon 100.2 21 5.2 4.6
Domingo German 97 18 4.3 4.7
Corey Kluber* (60-day IL) 53.1 10 3.5 3.9
Nestor Cortes, Jr 48.1 3 4 4.2
Jordan Montgomery 114.2 21 4.1 3.3
Yankees Starting Pitcher Avg. n/a n/a 4.2 4
League Average n/a n/a 4.7 4.5

So far in 2021, the Yankees have scored an average of 4.1 runs in games where Montgomery was the starting pitcher and an average of 3.3 runs per nine innings when Montgomery is on the mound. That is below the average runs per start (4.2) and below the average runs per innings pitched (4.0) for Yankees starting pitchers with at least five starts this season.

To be honest, I thought Monty’s run support numbers would be much lower relative to those of other starters on the Yankees. Recency bias probably plays a role here, since Monty recently had a string of consecutive starts where he received no run support from the lineup. He may not have received much run support lately, though he did get more help from the lineup in the beginning of the season.

So, is there any truth to the perception that the Yankees’ lineup is less productive when Montgomery is on the mound?

In baseball, statistics don’t always support patterns which feel true to fans. Even if it seems like Aaron Judge always grounds into double plays, or just because it felt as if Andy Pettitte could pitch shutout ball if needed in a do-or-die playoff game, it doesn’t mean those events actually occurred with more frequency.

Initially, I was so certain that the Yankees’ bats tend to go cold during Montgomery’s starts, and expected his run support numbers would reinforce my impression. While that is likely the case of late, Monty did receive more run support in games he started in April and May.

It’s depressing to watch the Yankees lose a game by a score of 1-0, or 2-0, especially on a night where Monty is dealing. Because run support isn’t something a pitcher can control, it tends to be a pretty flukey stat. Its utility can be limited, but it can also provide context to a starting pitcher’s win-loss record. Does a starter’s winning percentage seem off, or a bit too low, given how he has been performing? For Monty, who had a 3.38 ERA and a decent 1.18 WHIP before going on the COVID-19 IL, a lack of run support may explain why at first brush, his 2021 stats don’t look as impressive as they should be.