Frankie Montas is not off to the best of starts in a Yankees uniform. Before getting to the specific topic of last night's outing, it is essential to reinforce the all-too-known speech of this being only his third game since the trade and that it is hardly a large enough sample to judge a pitcher of his caliber.
There is a reason why Brian Cashman sent that package of young players for the former Oakland A's ace. Montas represents an improvement to this already stacked Yankees' rotation. Come postseason time; he gives the team more security at the top end of the staff with uncertainty surrounding Luis Severino.
Although three starts aren't enough to establish an undisputable opinion of a player's qualities, it hardly means that you have to sit around waiting for Montas to make his 12th start with the team to analyze anything about his performance on the mound. With that in mind, there are a few things to take away from Montas' start on Thursday .
In the series-opening game against the Blue Jays, Montas had to settle for eating innings after a blow-up in the second inning that saw him surrender five runs. Ultimately, Montas would toss up six innings, allowing a total of six earned runs on eight hits with a walk and a couple of punchouts.
What went wrong?
If there's anything we know about the Blue Jays, it’s that they are a very right-handed heavy lineup, and there is hardly much room for platoons, regardless of who's on the mound on any particular day. Sure enough, Toronto interim skipper John Schneider deployed nine righties against Montas, with Jackie Bradley Jr. only entering late as a defensive replacement.
Montas doesn't have reverse splits in 2022, but his arsenal resembles a pitcher who would. The splitter, which is possibly his best pitch, is one that has a particular tendency to stifle left-handed hitters.
If you look at Montas' pitch usage in 2022 against righties, it is clear that the splitter is much less used, and in turn. he relies more on his two heaters to compensate (the sinker and four-seamer).
The sinker usage has peaked in the last month or so, and in his latest outing, it was the cause of Montas's downfall.
Over 92 pitches, the Yankees' deadline addition threw 35 sinkers (good for 38 percent of his pitches). Out of those 35 offerings, he earned a putrid two called strikes. The Blue Jays' hitters chose to swing at it 18 times, and only one whiffed at a single sinker. And while whiffs are far from the primary goal of the sinker, Montas needs to earn strikes with the pitch; he was unable to do so last night.
Looking at the spray chart of the pitch, there were too many times when Montas severely missed with it on non-competitive pitches.
The "misses" inside to right-handed batters are on purpose. If you look at his heatmap for sinkers on the year, Montas lives in that area, which often generates weak contact — the primary goal of the pitch.
What to expect moving forward?
The poor command on the sinker against a right-handed heavy lineup was the leading cause for Montas's struggles on his last start, but it doesn't necessarily dictate a trend. Nothing indicates this should be a trend moving forward instead of an outlier.
There is an average level of pressure for every significant deadline acquisition, and that's only amplified when your new team is the New York Yankees. He’s lined up to have another tough test in the Bronx on Tuesday, when he appears set to take on Jacob deGrom and the Mets. It may take a bit for Montas to settle in, but with some refinement, he should improve moving forward.