The Jordan Montgomery who left the Yankees looks very little like the Jordan Montgomery who’s become a world-beater in St. Louis. And there’s a reason for that.
Turns out, the Yankees — across multiple generations of the coaching staff, apparently — misdiagnosed what works best for Montgomery’s arsenal by ignoring the mental side of the game.
It’s a common criticism that’s been lobbed at the Yankees since the days of Joe Girardi: too “by the book,” not reliant enough on the impact of human emotion. In recent months, the acquisition of Joey Gallo received the same critique. According to some scouts, New York would have been a problem for Gallo no matter what situation he’d been thrust into, and rumors abounded as his struggles piled up that Cashman’s sources warned him of the same thing last summer. Cashman ignored all concerns, assuming the back of the baseball card would look the same, regardless of the environment.
And then there’s Montgomery, who is thriving as a Cardinal, armed with a new fastball. Well, not really a new fastball, but a newfound love for the pitch that runs counter to how the Yankees advised him to attack hitters.
Per Montgomery on Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia’s R2C2 podcast, the Yankees always told the left-hander his fastball wasn’t good enough, and he should rely on his curveball and change. That led to what Monty called “auto-taking” with two strikes, where a hitter was so confident of a bouncing off speed pitch that he didn’t even have to consider a fastball could be coming.
It also led to Montgomery missing his spots when he did try to attack with the fastball. After all, if you’re never told to come in with a pitch, you’re not going to be ready to come far enough inside when the time comes to actually try it.
Jordan Montgomery is a new man with a new fastball after leaving Yankees
“I didn’t have much faith in my heater (at) the Yankees,” Montgomery said plainly. “I’d been told that it wasn’t that good compared to my other pitches, and if I was gonna get hit, it was gonna be on a curveball or a changeup, which isn’t how you can pitch.”
Well, that’s as blunt as it gets.
Montgomery revealed later in the interview that, when he pushed back on the Yankees’ advice and tried to regain confidence in his fastball, he would still throw it tentatively, reminding himself that the team claimed he would not succeed that way. No matter what he tried, he would pitch to not give up a hit with his fastball instead of trying to “blow [the hitter’s] doors off,” as he eloquently stated.
Now, with the Cardinals, things have been flipped around entirely. The fastball-forward version of Montgomery holds a 1.45 ERA and a 2.28 FIP in seven starts, and is sure to get a playoff start with his new franchise.
While fans may have been nervous about the Dodgers “unlocking” Gallo, Montgomery should’ve been the one they were focused on. Turns out, his tweak was simple and psychological.
It’s now confirmed that Montgomery would “never” have performed this well with the Yankees. And it’s all because they were specifically telling him not to.