Jordan Montgomery made his first career MLB start on April 12 at Yankee Stadium. He gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits, walked 2, and struck out 7 in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 89 pitches, 61 for strikes.
Montgomery was replaced with 2 outs in the fifth inning, a runner on second, and the Yankees trailing 2-0. It wasn't a Quality Start, since he failed to go 6 innings, and he didn't complete the required 5 innings to qualify for the win.
Nonetheless, it was a spectacular debut for the young lefty. He gave his team a chance to win, which they ultimately did, and he left the mound to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Montgomery was selected by the New York Yankees in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft. He had made only 60 appearances (56 starts), pitching 288 innings in the minors before arriving at spring training this season.
Entering camp, Montgomery was a long shot to make the Yankee bullpen. More than likely, the best he could have hoped for was to make a good impression and put himself in a position to be called up later in the season.
When the fifth starter competition was announced, Montgomery was not on the list of contenders. Despite this, he pitched his way into the conversation and found himself in a two-way battle for the spot before camp ended.
Since the Yankees didn't project needing a fifth starter until April 16, the competition continued with one minor league start. Montgomery edged out Chad Green and was named fifth starter. He was then called up early so Girardi could give the other starters an extra day of rest.
This unlikely and meteoric rise culminated in Montgomery's Major League debut in front of 38,000 plus at Yankee Stadium versus the Rays last Wednesday.
So now that he's here, what can we expect from the talented young lefty over the course of this season?
First, it must be acknowledged that expectations are high for anyone who puts on the pinstripes. Sometimes those expectations are unrealistically high, especially for young players.
I did some research to see how other rookie starters have fared in recent years. Ultimately, I decided to share with you a table I created after compiling the rookie season stats of the last 20 starting pitchers who have won the American League Cy Young Award. (For the sake of having larger sample sizes, stats for multiple years are included when a player failed to make 24 starts in his first season or seasons.)
The first thing that jumped out at me was the high WHIP for virtually everyone on this chart. Roy Halladay's WHIP was a whopping 1.710 over his first 57 MLB games (33 starts). 14 of these Cy Young Award winners had a WHIP of over 1.300 in the first year of their careers.
The next thing I noticed was that the ERA+ for many of these pitchers was either below or only slightly above league average. (For those of you who are new to advanced stats, ERA+ is calibrated so that 100 is equal to league average). Of note, three of the eight pitchers who had an ERA+ higher than 110 as youngsters were often used as relievers.
What does this mean? Why present a chart of Cy Young Award winners in an article about Jordan Montgomery? To underscore this point: we need to have realistic expectations for rookie starters. Any rookie starter. But especially for a youngster who was drafted three years ago and only had 288 professional innings pitched heading into this season.
Montgomery is going to give up hits. He's going to give up runs. He may walk a lot of people. He may often fail to finish the fifth inning. There may be starts where he gets hit hard and gets knocked out even earlier than that. There may be a good start, followed by a terrible one, followed by a so-so one. We must expect all of those things. That's what most rookie pitchers do.
So what would I like to see from Jordan Montgomery? I think it would be great if he makes 30 starts this year. Another hope is that 50% of those are Quality Starts (six innings pitched with three earned runs or less allowed). Montgomery might finish the year with an ERA over 5.00 and a WHIP over 1.500. So what? We have to expect that from most rookies. They have to pitch to get better. Meanwhile, we must be patient. We should just sit back and enjoy watching Montgomery develop.
Will Jordan Montgomery become the next Whitey Ford or Ron Guidry or Andy Pettitte? I have no idea, but it will be fun watching to see what this youngster will do. What do you think? What are you hoping to see from Jordan Montgomery this season?