The Cardinals rotation carries some significant question marks heading into the 2023 season. Jack Flaherty’s health is a constant question mark, Adam Wainwright is 41 and Matthew Liberatore simply was not good last year. Miles Mikolas is coming off of a great 2022 season but that was on the heels of 2 below average seasons and the metrics indicate Mikolas was lucky in last year. As a result, a lot of weight will be placed on Jordan Montgomery’s shoulder as the southpaw very well might have to be the number one or two starter in 2023. Monty pitched well when he came to the Cardinals pitching to a 3.11 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 63 ⅔ innings. Down below we are going to look into what exactly the former Yankee will offer in 2023 and whether or not he is prepared to handle the burden that might be placed upon him.
Montgomery is a solid but not spectacular pitcher who has always posted better numbers than the analytics indicate he should. He pitched to a 3.48 ERA last season but that was also paired with an xERA of 4.00. He had a solid wOBA against of .291, but his xWOBA of .310 was in the 43rd percentile in the league. Despite being viewed as a player who excels at limiting hard contact, he did not do that last season as his average exit velocity against of 88.5 was a hair worse than league average and his hard-hit percentage against of 37.5 percent is only a little better than average. He is also not a high spin rate or high velocity player as they range from about league average to well below average across the board on his pitches.
Where Montgomery makes his money is limiting walks, getting chases and forcing whiffs. The southpaw’s whiff rate of 27.4 percent is 2.7 percent better than average. His chase rate of 33.2 percent plays off of that number perfectly as it is nearly 5 percent better than league average. Additionally, throughout his career he has been a player who has excellent command of his pitches with his walk rate of 5 percent last year ranking in the 89th percentile.
What to expect from Montgomery?
There is a belief that the Cardinals might have unlocked a bit more with Montgomery as his pitch arsenal changed with the team. His four-seam fastball usage jumped from 4.8 percent in July to 32.9 percent in August. He also significantly decreased his sinker usage as it dropped from 49.1 percent in July down to 28.4 percent in August. This change in his pitch usage might explain why his ERA with the Cardinals was a 3.11 compared to the 3.69 he posted in his time with the Yankees last year. Now it is a small sample size as Montgomery did only make 11 starts with the Cardinals meaning hitters did not have significant time to adjust to his new repertoire. However, it is a considerable improvement with an explainable cause and effect meaning we cannot completely ignore it. I think with the change of approach in his arsenal as well as his ability to miss bats, produce chases and not allow many free passes the Cardinals can safely expect Montgomery to be a low end second starter for the 2023 season.