Thursday was not a great day for the Yankees. After two easy wins against the Royals earlier in the week, the offense could not muster anything against Danny Duffy. The Royals’ left-hander absolutely worked over the offense, racking up ten strikeouts without surrendering a run in seven innings. Things weren’t much better for the Yankees on the other side of the ball, either. Rookie Jordan Montgomery turned in the worst start of his young career, although Chad Green turned in a strong three-inning relief appearance in a 5-1 loss.
Honestly, Thursday’s loss did not stick out to me much. It seemed like just another loss. Sometimes the offense doesn’t have it. Sometimes pitching doesn’t. Sometimes it’s both, and on Thursday, it was both. However, I noticed yesterday that some members of the media did not feel the same way. An article posted on Thursday suggests that maybe Chad Green should take over the fifth spot in the rotation and Jordan Montgomery should be sent back to Triple-A. I would argue the exact opposite of that. Green’s arsenal and experience make him a much stronger bullpen candidate. Montgomery has also shown enough to prove that he belongs in the big league rotation for good.
Keep Green in the bullpen
Chad Green worked as a starter for essentially all of his minor league career, started eight games for the Yankees last year, and lost the fifth starter’s job in April to Montgomery. After Thursday’s six strikeout performance, there are some who might call for his insertion into the rotation. However, Green is best suited in the bullpen. He has an amazing, albeit short, track record in the Yankees’ bullpen. More importantly, he profiles as a potential relief ace.
Green was never considered a legitimate prospect until he got to the Yankees. After joining the organization, Green has added a cutter, depth to his slider, and velocity to his fastball. These changes have corresponded to an increase in Green’s strikeout numbers. In Detroit’s system, Green’s K/9 rate hovered around 8, but it has gone up to around 10 since joining the Yankees. Such huge gains allowed Green to debut with the big league club last year. However, in 36 1/3 innings as a starter, Green owned a 5.94 ERA and gave up 2.97 HR/9.
His career stat line won’t show it because of his numbers as a starter. Still, Green has been lights out as a relief pitcher. In 2016, Green pitched 9 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Despite walking three batters in four appearances, Green struck out eight and did not allow an earned run. This year, Green’s appearances have been limited to just three, but he’s struck out 11, walked one, and hasn’t surrendered a run in 7 1/3 innings. He’s been able to bring the fastball up to 97 mph and keep hitters off balance with his cutter and slider.
The reason for Green’s continued struggles as a starter is because he lacks a changeup. Without a change, it’s extremely difficult for starters to work through a lineup twice or more. Luis Severino showed Yankee fans how difficult it can be for starters without a changeup.
Fans might note that Severino also found success in the bullpen and has been able to mostly parlay that into a successful campaign as a starter this year. However, Luis Severino and Chad Green are not the same player. Severino was an organizational top prospect and has always had a much higher ceiling than Green. Green has a three-pitch mix that makes him an ideal reliever. His lack of a changeup gets him in trouble when asked to turn over a lineup multiple times. He’s been successful in his short time there so far, and he’s struggled as a starter this year and last. If the Yankees can stave off injuries to their rotation, they might be better served by keeping Green in the bullpen.
Keep Montgomery in the rotation
Yes, technically, Jordan Montgomery’s last start was the worst of his career, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a demotion. In five innings of work, Gumby surrendered four hits, three walks, and one home run which turned into five runs for the Royals. Montgomery set a career high in earned runs given up yesterday with five. He also earned the lowest game score he’s had all year and had the lowest swinging-strike-to-strikes thrown ratio all year. Still, Montgomery’s bad day was really just two bad innings.
In the first, third, and fourth innings, Montgomery looked pretty solid. He got out of the first in just 12 pitches and worked the third inning in just 11. He followed that inning by striking out the side in the fourth. However, the second and fifth innings got him into serious trouble.
Montgomery surrendered two walks in the second, which turned into the Royals’ first two runs of the game. A bunt single and another walk in the fifth set up a Mike Moustakas three-run home run to right.
Don’t get me wrong, Montgomery certainly needs to cut down on the walks. After his last start, he’s owns a 10.7% walk rate, good for 4.12 BB/9. Very few pitchers can remain successful with such a high walk rate. History suggests that this rate will likely even out, though. Scouts grade Montgomery’s control rating as above average. Moreover, his career BB/9 rate in the minors is 2.17.
Ultimately, Montgomery has shown that he needs to work on his game, but he’s still one of the team’s best pitchers. He consistently throws four pitches for strikes. No pitcher in the starting rotation gives up fewer home runs (0.9 HR/9) and only Michael Pineda and Luis Severino strike out more hitters. Montgomery has shown that he’s ready for the show, and pitchers break down all the time. Sending Montgomery to Triple-A is wasting bullets and would put a statistically-lesser pitcher into the starting rotation.
If Montgomery can cut down on the walks just a bit, he can make those two-out singles and home runs hurt just a little bit less and continue to solidify his presence in the Yankee rotation.