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How much will the Yankees miss Jordan Montgomery in October?

Jordan Montgomery will be missed in the postseason, but to what extent?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With playoff baseball only a week away, the movements of Brian Cashman at this year’s deadline have long been analyzed and documented to the smallest of details. From the decision to flip Jordan Montgomery, right after acquiring Frankie Montas, to the bullpen pickups of Lou Trivino and Scott Effross, much has been said, both positively and negatively, about the Yankees’ moves.

Montgomery looked like a new man at the beginning of his journey in the Midwest. Meanwhile, in the Bronx, Montas struggled to adjust to his new environment and recently went on the injured list indefinitely, with shoulder issues. Harrison Bader, the return for Monty, sat idly on the IL. That combination served to some extent as confirmation bias for those who thought Cashman had blundered at the deadline, even if it was a small sample size.

The Yankees as a whole bounced back nicely as of late, pulling away from the Rays and Blue Jays for the AL East crown, after even that felt in doubt for a moment there in August. Among the helpful contributors in this late-season push, you’ll find two back-end starters in Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán.

The Yankees have won six of Taillon’s last seven outings with four quality starts in that period, and the oft-questioned Germán has delivered a strong 116 ERA+ in 14 games. If you told fans that Montas would be ineffective and hurt with Montgomery gone, they almost certainly would have presumed that the rotation would be in for a rough time. Instead, it’s fair to ask: How detrimental was the loss of Jordan Montgomery?

To gauge how much the Yankees truly miss Montgomery, we have to look at what role he would’ve performed for the Yanks in October if he were to still be around.

Originally, after the deadline moves, the plan was to have Gerrit Cole, Frankie Montas, Luis Severino, and Nestor Cortes as the four members of this rotation. The deadline addition Montas would slot in at the second spot, giving some cushion for Severino to get healthy, and also take some pressure away from Cortes, who struggled a bit mid-season.

At this point, the Yankees can’t really plan for a role for Montas between his struggles and injury woes, and Germán should only start in the postseason in case of emergencies. So, the matter then becomes whether you would prefer Montgomery or Taillon starting in a potential Game Four of a playoff series.

The answer is probably Montgomery, as many fans would likely agree. But the discussion to be had is a deeper one than simply looking at the two pitchers and picking the best option at first blush.

Taillon has allowed a .708 OPS on the season, a mark higher than Monty’s .671 total. As far as strikeout and walk rates, Monty has upped his K% to 24.1 while maintaining roughly the same BB% (5.2 from 4.9). Taillon’s strikeout rate remains below league average, as it has been for most of his career in the big leagues, and the former Pirate relies heavily on his ability to limit free passes with a 4.3 BB%.

Overall, the gap between these two pitchers is not as big as it looked at one point in August, especially with recent blowups against the formidable Braves and Dodgers for Montgomery. It’s mostly a consensus that Monty gives you just a little bit more in terms of floor and upside, but it’s a small difference.

Ultimately, the Yankees, even through the struggles of Montas, and the belated insertion of Bader to the lineup, got by fine through the regular season. Their back-end of the rotation never became a liability, despite the loss of Montgomery. What happened with Montas was basically the lowest percentile outcome — snake eyes, the zero in roulette, a natural one; you name your comparable worst-case scenario. And yet, the back of the staff survived just fine.

Taillon in his current form may not be as good as the best version of Montgomery, but the gap between them isn't big enough to cause a large impact. Perhaps more importantly, Taillon as the fourth starter will likely give the Yankees a small edge over the fourth starter of whichever ball club that comes out of that Wild Card Round. At worse, he’ll be a comparable option.

Moreover, the addition of Bader to what’s proven to be an outfield in need, even with Oswaldo Cabrera coming up and carving a role without much experience at the position, has been necessary. While Bader hasn’t gotten going with the stick yet, he brings a track record of adequacy at the plate, and a terrific glove in center. On the whole, Bader’s defensive excellence tips the scales; while Montgomery might be ever so slightly preferable to Taillon one-on-one, Bader makes the Yankees better with his defense every night.

Montgomery will ultimately be missed if a Game Four start comes along. However, after weighting every variable, the Yankees still came out on fine in the end, even with their prized starting pitching acquisition floundering. Taillon should be more than capable in the former Yankee’s place.