Oakland A’s starter Frankie Montas was named AL Pitcher of the Month for September, but really it was his third straight dominant month.
Overall he had an excellent season and he’ll get some Cy Young votes, but he shouldn’t and won’t win the award.
Surely there must be something in between those two endpoints to show how great Montas was this year. The single-month honor doesn’t feel like enough, but suggesting him for the full Cy would be too much.
How about the Second-Half Cy Young award?
Of course, in the majors each “half”-season isn’t really a true half, but rather the portions before and after the All-Star break. This summer the second half spanned the final 70 games of the A’s campaign, including 14 starts by Montas beginning in mid-July.
- Montas, 2nd half: 2.17 ERA, 87 ip, 102 Ks, 29 BB, 6 HR, 61 hits, 2.83 FIP
He was quality in a dozen of those outings, and four times he tossed seven scoreless innings. Only twice did he fall short of completing six frames, and only once did he allow more than three runs, topping out at four. He faced plenty of tough competition along the way, including the White Sox twice, Mariners twice, Astros, Yankees, and Giants, and stayed consistently strong throughout.
- Montas, July: 2.30 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 11.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
- Montas, Aug: 2.03 ERA, 1.78 FIP, 10.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
- Montas, Sep: 2.19 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Note: July numbers include a couple starts from the “first half” of the season
In July, Jameson Taillon of the Yankees posted a microscopic 1.16 ERA to net Pitcher of the Month honors, and in August Robbie Ray of the Blue Jays blew away everybody with a 1.76 ERA and airtight peripherals (1.93 FIP). Montas would have been a fine choice either time, and in fact he had a better FIP than each winner, but the monthly award tends to be more results-based so a superior ERA usually rules the day. And anyway, Montas kept rolling and finally got a nod in September.
Looking at the entire second half of the year, Ray was untouchable in July and August but faded a little down the stretch, just enough to let Montas squeeze past him. Cal Quantrill of Cleveland had similar results to Montas, with a string of good six-inning starts, a few seven-inning gems, and only a couple mild stinkers. Marco Gonzales of the Mariners got himself back on track while Seattle surged in the standings, including a complete game two-hitter (and a 9-1 record, for whatever that’s worth).
- Montas: 2.17 ERA, 87 ip, 102 Ks, 29 BB, 6 HR, 2.83 FIP
- Ray: 2.53 ERA, 92⅔ ip, 118 Ks, 28 BB, 13 HR, 3.42 FIP
- Quantrill: 1.94 ERA, 88 ip, 78 Ks, 27 BB, 9 HR, 3.82 FIP
- Gonzales: 2.70 ERA, 86⅔ ip, 59 Ks, 21 BB, 14 HR, 4.74 FIP
Among the rest of the league, Lucas Giolito (CHW) could have been on the list but didn’t make as many starts nor throw as many innings as the quartet above; Dylan Cease (CHW) and Nathan Eovaldi (BOS) had great peripherals (3.06 FIP, 3.03 FIP) but mediocre ERAs (3.67, 3.87) and also fewer innings; and Lance McCullers Jr (HOU) was good but just a small step behind in every category.
When you combine results (ERA), underlying process (FIP), and workload (innings), nobody else matched what Montas laid out. Quantrill edged him out in ERA but didn’t miss nearly as many bats, Gonzales had the workload but not quite the ERA or FIP, and Eovaldi and Cease had sharper FIPs in lighter workloads but let through more actual runs. Ray had it all and was slightly better for July and August but fell off in September.
Need a coup de grâce to really drive things home? Montas led all American League pitchers in fWAR in the second half of the season.
- Montas: 2.5 fWAR
- Eovaldi: 2.3
- Cease: 2.2
- Ray: 2.2
- Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS): 2.1
- Quantrill 14th (1.5), Gonzales 34th (0.9)
There’s a case to be made for a few of those pitchers, but Montas has the best argument by far. The A’s didn’t quite reach the postseason even though he did everything he could to drag them there, stepping up like an ace on a staff that badly needed it. His trophy shelf will only show evidence of one of his great months, but Montas was the Second-Half AL Cy Young if such an award existed.
Who was the 2nd-half AL Cy Young in 2021?
Somebody else (please explain in the comments)