Exit Interviews – Miguel Montero
I thought this would be a good way to get into the rhythm of writing about the Cubs every day, in case that’s how I go about this in the future. Plus it’s a good way to keep talking about this Cubs team before we have to move on. I figure the first big trade or signing of the winter will probably cause us all to look forward, and certainly the creepy weirdness of the Cubs Convention probably will too.
So we’ll start behind the plate, and with Miguel Montero. It feels like I used up my swear word quota watching Miggy the last two months of the season. And certainly he was alway behind at least part of an eight-ball as he was acquired to replace a player I genuinely liked in Welington Castillo. Or I just liked saying, “SHAKE HANDS WITH BEEF.” Either way, it was tough to let go of.
But all Miggy really did was what happens to pretty much every catcher who is north of 30. He faded as the season went along because the tools of ignorance will exact their pound of flesh no matter what. It’s why teams try and move their productive catchers from out behind the plate before they hit 30. It’s why you’ll see Buster Posey at 1st more and more, and why the Twins got Joe Mauer out from back there, though far too late. The problem lies in that this is going to go away.
Overall, Miggy did bounce back from two years wandering around the desert guided by a space coyote. A wRC+ of 107 from the catcher spot is hardly something most teams would complain about, and was top 10 among catchers in MLB. Lets you know just how little teams get from most catchers at the plate and why the heavy hitting ones are paid all the money under the sun.
Miggy got a break in July when he was hurt, and his brief time in August after his return was pretty profitable. He only hit .246 but slugged over .500, and had an OPS of .865 in 10 games. September saw the reverse, where he hit .310 but his power completely evaporated. He had two doubles and one homer in the season’s last five weeks, and his performance in the playoffs remains in the “less said the better” category. Not that anyone should use an eight-game sample to prove anything.
Still, when Montero was acquired the big attribute we were told about was his pitch framing and handling of pitchers, and on that there can’t really be any criticism. Montero was ranked sixth among all catchers in the runs he saved through the strikes he stole (which is an indictment of the umps more than a skill from catchers but if the advantage is there to be taken you take it). While Montero’s gunning down of runners tailed off as the miles piled up, you can throw that on the pitchers just as much who simply didn’t pay much attention.
Montero, like pretty much every other Cub, struck out too much at a quarter of the time but at least he did balance it out with a 12% walk-rate. And while his Happy Gilmore like swing could be infuriating at times when contact was only required, that seems to be a common malady in the lineup.
The question becomes if Kyle Schwarber is melded into a rotation behind the plate, as the Cubs started this season with when Castillo was still around, would that keep Montero fresh enough to hit for a decent amount of power throughout the season? The thing is Montero only ended up with 400 PAs due to his injuries, so how much less are you going to restrict him to? He can spread them out better if he remains healthy if Ross is catching Lester and Schwarber takes one or two starts in the rest of the rotation through the starters, but then wouldn’t Montero go stale?
That’s almost certainly going to be the plan, as Montero is signed for another two years and it’s unlikely the Cubs are ready to go Schwarber-Ross exclusively behind the plate without some quizzical looks from their pitchers. I think I’d like to see what Montero looks like with 400 PAs spread out over six months instead of crammed into four and a half as it was this season. But he’s still going to look like a threat to have one of his discs come spinning out of his back on one of those swings.