Are We Good: Is it Time to Worry About Miguel Montero?
When the season began, Miguel Montero was looking every bit like the two-time All-Star catcher the Cubs were hoping for when they acquired him for two low-level prospect arms. Miggy displayed great leadership and appeared to be having fun, both on the field an across social media, where his playful banter quickly became part of Cubs nomenclature.
In April, Montero slashed .261/.333/.478, right on par with his career numbers. In May, he went .254/.405/.388 and made up for an appreciable drop in power with a big jump in OBP. He had 5 home runs through those first two months, too, and the #wearegood cheers were tossed about frequently.
But as the calendar turned to June, things began to shift a bit. Hitting 4 homers in the month may have helped to obscure a line that had dipped to .211/.309/.380 and a K-rate that had gone from 20.4% and 21.4% in April and May, respectively, to 27.2% in June (his career average is 19.9%, for what it’s worth).
And while July has given us only a 33-at-bat sample size, the early results are pretty ugly: a .182/.250/.303 slash with a 36.1% K-rate and only two extra-base hits to show for it. Over the first few months of the season, Montero was walking at a high enough rate to offset the whiffs, but that too has begun to fall off significantly.
It’s entirely possible that the drops are simply part of a normal regression and that Montero’s early production was aberrant and unsustainable. While that’s undoubtedly true, I have begun to fear that nagging injuries and age may be contributing heavily to what may be more of an overall diminution of skill than a seasonal correction.
Take a look at the charts below, which track Montero’s batting average and OBP over the past three seasons. As you can see, there are big swings early on in each campaign as data is compiled. For the most part, though, things settle in and the general trend is to remain right around that red season-average line for both the 2013 and ’14 seasons.
But when we review this season’s data, the peaks and valleys are more pronounced and are occurring deeper in the season. We’d expect to see big swings in April, when one good or bad game can drastically impact season stats. Seeing them in May, June, and July, however, is a bit more concerning.
Of even greater concern is the thumb injury that sidelined Montero for the end of the season’s first half. While it’s on his non-throwing hand, it’s not going to be a lot of fun to catch or hit with a lame left paw.
On the surface, Joe Maddon didn’t seem too worried about things, but you’d expect nothing less from a guy who’s chill enough to make an October day at Wrigley seem warm. When addressing Montero’s injury, the skipper didn’t offer much in the way of specifics though.
“I don’t know,” Maddon said. “I’m hearing the initial evaluation was like it could be not so bad — and then it could be bad. It totally is in this like midrange thing.
“We’re waiting to hear back the test results. We’ll know more, obviously, over the next couple days, and we’ll figure it out. We’ll use the All-Star break to try and assess where we’re at and how we want to move forward in the second half.”
If this ends up being more “not so bad,” the Cubs may not have to rely on David Ross and Taylor Teagarden coming out of the All-Star break, which is a very good thing. I really like Ross as a backup catcher, and have defended him on numerous occasions, but I’m not looking forward to him as an everyday option.
My real fear, however, isn’t going with a backup for a little while to let the starter lick his wounds. No, my fear is that the starter regresses to backup level himself, offensively anyway. Of course, the good news in all of this is that both Montero and Ross offer enough behind the dish to make up for what they lack at it at this point.
Further complicating matters is the presence of Kyle Schwarber, who continues to crush baseballs — not to mention the souls of minor-league pitchers — down in Iowa. Basically the opposite of the grizzled vets the Cubs have now, Schwarber is a bat-first guy who’s going to have to use his offense to make up for his glove.
In a best-case scenario, Miguel Montero comes back from the break refreshed and pulls out of this nosedive to regain some semblance of his performance from those first couple months. Not only will that make the Cubs significantly better, but it’ll quiet the Schwarber whispers that will grow to outright screams if current trends continue.
Maybe my fears have no strong foundation in reality and I’m just manipulating the stats to fit my own internal narrative. Still, I’m worried about Montero moving forward; he’s a 10-year vet with a history of back issues and he’s putting up a stat line that indicates more than just a thumb issue this season. But again, maybe I’m just paranoid.
What do you think, dear reader? Should I be worried about Montero, or am I just jumping at shadows?
Because if the latter is true, I’d love for Miggy to flip the switch in the second half and turn the lights on for me.