Mike Montgomery is a man possessed.
Over the last 7 months, he's made it pretty damn clear he prefers to be a starting pitcher rather than a reliever and he's certainly put his money where his mouth is.
Montgomery tossed another gem Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, keeping the division-leading Brewers offense at bay with only 2 hits, a walk and a lone run in 6 innings. In fact, the only Brewers player to reach base safely was Lorenzo Cain, who had a single, walk and a homer as the only blemish.
With the outing, Montgomery lowered his season ERA to 3.31 and WHIP to 1.08. But his numbers as a starter are even more impressive.
The 28-year-old southpaw has a 1.14 ERA and 0.68 WHIP as a member of the Cubs' rotation in 2018, allowing just 13 hits in 23.2 innings.
His fit in the rotation goes well beyond this season.
Dating back to July 19 of last year, Montgomery has a 1.99 ERA and 0.75 WHIP as a starting pitcher in 58.2 innings spanning 11 outings. He's given up more than one run in only two of those 11 starts. Also in that time, he's allowed just 34 hits, 10 walks and 5 homers — absolutely sparkling numbers.
For perspective, Jon Lester has been on a roll this year but over his last 62.2 innings — during which he has a 1.72 ERA — the Cubs ace has still allowed 40 hits and 20 walks (16 more baserunners in only 4 more innings).
Montgomery is simply the Cubs' best pitcher right now and even if he falters a bit in the next couple starts, his recent track record as a member of the rotation is forcing the Cubs' hand.
How could they possibly throw him back in the bullpen right now?
Montgomery's emergence has been both a good thing and a bad thing for a team that's vying for first place in the National League Central.
On the one hand, the Cubs badly needed a boost in the rotation and that's exactly what Montgomery has given. On the other hand, what do the Cubs do when Yu Darvish is actually healthy and returns to the rotation?
It's a good problem to have.
Tyler Chatwood's head-scratching control issues would seem to make him a fit to lose a spot in the rotation, but he's also been turning things around of late and feels like he's made an adjustment that will lead to better results on the field. Plus, do you really want a guy who struggles to throw strikes to be pitching 1 or 2 innings at a time out of the bullpen late in games?
Darvish seems like a lock for the rotation when he comes off the disabled list (whenever that might be). The Cubs invested $126 million and 6 years into Darvish and he has a long track record of being an elite big-league starter (his 11.0 K/9 career rate is the best in MLB history for a starting pitcher).
So who does Montgomery bump out? Or do the Cubs just roll with a 6-man rotation right before or after the All-Star Break?
That's a problem for Future Joe Maddon and Future Theo Epstein. We don't know how that will all play out right now, but one thing's for certain: Mike Montgomery is walking the walk.