Mr. Split-Finger - A Frankie Montas Deep Dive
When I was younger I used to love playing monopoly, even if it took four hours to complete. I thought I was so smooth and I would always hide money under my leg so people didn’t think I was a threat. Pretty smart right? Keep the target off of my back! Then towards the middle of the game when I felt a power shift in my favor I would reveal my extra money and laugh in my opponent’s faces. I was kind of ruthless as a child. I’m sure most of us cheated in a game at some point in life right? Well, Frankie Montas did the same thing and I can’t really blame him.
Introduction of the Splitter
Frankie Montas pitched well in 2018, in 65 innings he posted a 3.88 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 4.86 SIERA. While there were some underlying worries (27.5 O-Swing, 8.6 SwStr%, and 15.2 K%) overall it seemed like a good start to Montas’ career.
Fast forward into 2019 Montas reached a whole other level pitching to 96 innings with a 2.63 ERA, 3.00 FIP, and 3.76 SIERA. What changed was he added a brand new pitch which was a splitter, and what a pitch it was (we will get to it later). With an improved strikeout rate of 26.1% and a rise in SwStr% of 11.5, Montas seemed to be on his way to a break out before the suspension hit. Just to point out some overall differences in 18’ he had a .285 batting average against (BAA) and in 19’ it dropped to .229. His chase rate also improved as he went from a 27.5 O-Swing% to an above-average 35.1 O-Swing%. As Olaf says in the movie Frozen, “all good things, all good things.”
Let’s start having some fun and let’s take a look at his repertoire because we all know that is the best part of a deep dive.
Depending on which website you look at this is classified as either a sinker or two-seamer, but it looks more like a sinker. I don’t understand why pitchers throw sinkers unless they are a power sinker (high 90’s) they usually aren't great. The sinker was much better in 19’ compared to 18’ in just about every aspect. I’m still not a fan of it though as he insists on using it versus right-handed hitters who have a .303 batting average against it (move to the four-seam Montas). While the ISO is good (.152) the wRC+ is scary (131) and he just needs to use this pitch less often (38.0%).
All you hear about is Montas’ splitter but his slider is also a very good pitch. In 2019 he decided to put a little more velocity behind it and it caused a little more movement on the pitch. He throws it at the bottom of the zone, has great command, and utilizes it really well (10.3 pVAL). Hitters can’t hit it (.160 Avg) and when they do they don't make great contact (1.7 Barrel% and 59.3 GB%). This is a staple for Montas that he threw 25.0% of the time and rightfully so.
Ah, here it is, the golden egg! As mentioned earlier Montas decided to add a splitter coming into 2019 and it certainly worked well for him. Here are some of its insane numbers: .111 ISO, .160 Avg, 37 wRC+, 45.7 O-Swing%, 30.9 Zone%, and 21.3 SwStr%. It was essentially unhittable and while the zone rate is low it doesn’t matter because everyone was chasing it out of the zone. I have heard people worry about the splitter due to the grip, while it could be inconsistent at times he still has a viable slider and four-seam to back it up.
Montas throws this 18.7% of the time and I wish he threw it more instead of his sinker. It is more successful versus right-handed hitters and was better in every category. The only caveat to that is he does use this pitch as a setup pitch and maybe that’s why he doesn’t use it too much. The command can be iffy at times but the 2.1 pVAL ain't too shabby.
Overall Montas’ pitches rub me the right way. He uses his cutter high in the zone to set up his slider and split-finger low in the zone. With the improved splitter its no wonder his SwStr% and O-Swing% improved dramatically in 2019.
This is the question on everyone’s mind, is PEDs the reason why he was so good in 2019? While it is hard to tell, with pitchers I would say yes if their velocity made a dramatic change, which wasn’t the case with Montas. His velocity had a very slight uptick and its not like his fastball or cutter were dramatically better in 2019. That’s my opinion what do you think?
Montas seems to be a bargain at his ADP of 113, he is going after pitchers Lamet, Soroka, and Carrasco. Let me ask you something, if Montas came off an injury and finished the last 65 innings of the year with his 2019 stats where would you be drafting him? Probably around Brandon Woodruff right? Well, he is at pick 77. Whether you believe the PEDs helped him or not that splitter is legit and you can’t ignore such a tangible change. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions feel free to reach out!