Oakland A’s: The Frankie Montas question

In theory, Frankie Montas is healthy. But his recent performance shows that may not be the case.

Approximately two weeks ago, Frankie Montas was a late scratch for the Oakland A’s, his start skipped due to tightness in his back. Both Montas and the A’s said that he was fine, that it was just precautionary and that nothing was wrong. He took his next turn in the rotation as scheduled, and it was hoped that this would just be much ado about nothing.

Instead, Montas was torched in that outing. He recorded just five outs while allowing nine runs on six hits and four walks, including two homers. That outing was cause for a bit of concern, but it could have just been a bit of rust after having ten days between starts.

One cannot say that it is rust any longer. Montas has made three starts in total since being scratched, allowing 18 runs on 19 hits, including four homers, and nine walks in his 9.2 innings. While he has struck out 11 batters, Montas has also allowed a .404/.491/.723 batting line to the 57 hitters he has faced.

At this juncture, the A’s have to be concerned. While they have not stated anything publicly, nor has there been any indication that his back is causing problems, something clearly is not right. However, his velocity is essentially the same as it was in July.

The most notable difference, in looking at his charts, has been a change in how he is attacking the opposition. Montas had used his sinker on 52.53% of his pitches in July and cut that to 34.87% in August. Meanwhile, the usage of his fastball, slider, and splitter all increased by approximately five to six percent.

That may be the difference. Montas allowed a .231 batting average on his sinker and a .182 batting average on his fastball in August, both of which were improvements over July. However, opponents had a .300 batting average on the slider and a .429 batting average on the splitter. The splitter in particular was crushed, with an .857 slugging percentage against.

Maybe it is just as simple as a change in approach. Perhaps, if Montas goes back to the sinker more frequently, he will look more like the pitcher he had been over his first four outings, when he was a potential Cy Young candidate. But that is a big if.

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Frankie Montas has not been right since the start that had been skipped due to his back issues. Maybe it is as simple as a change in approach, but something is wrong.