Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Problem With Luis Severino?

It wasn't long ago that I was a "win now" type of person. As long as the Yankees had a chance to win, I wanted them to do whatever it took. That type of mentality led to me being okay with trading away prospects. I remember getting into arguments with people like Daniel about that.

"You're stupid!"
"No, you're stupid!"

I would say things like "sure, (insert prospect name) may help us win in the future, but (insert trade candidate) can help us win now."

But that mentality changed not long ago. I think it was when Derek Jeter retired, and I finally realized that the Yankees had to evolve. There was no longer a core of players, like Derek, to build around. The team no longer had an identity, and it was time to build a new one.

Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo... those are just a few names of players that I see making up the new core for the team. Players that Brian Cashman, or his predecessor, will try and construct another dynasty around.

But what about pitching?

James Kaprielian is one of the pitchers I see anchoring the pitching staff for years to come. Along with Luis Severino.

Did I cause some of you to cringe just then? Did you think back to last night, when Luis gave up seven hits and six earned runs in just three innings? Or how about the fact that he only struck out one hitter during that outing? Just for good measure I'm going to remind you that the also threw a wild pitch.

While that was easily his worst start of the season, he hasn't been great in any of them. Against Seattle a couple of weeks ago he gave up eight hits and four earned runs in 5.2 innings, and only struck out two. And in his season debut a week before that he gave up ten hits in five innings (although he did strike out five without walking anyone).

The point is that one of the pitchers that I, and plenty of others, see the Yankees building around for the future may very well be a bust. And here's what I think of that thought...

After the first 12 stars of his career, Felix Hernandez had an ERA of 2.67. Fans in Seattle must have been ecstatic over their new king. Right up until the next season, when he finished with an ERA of 4.52. But the Mariners didn't quit on Hernandez, and I think it's safe to say they made the right decision to stick it out.

Zack Greinke's debut season with the Royals didn't go as well as Felix's, but he still threw to an ERA of 3.97. And how did he do in his 2nd season? A 5.80 ERA.

Jake Arrieta spent years on Major League Baseball before he figured it out, and when he was 22 years old he was pitching for the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League (A+ ball).

So if you're worried about Severino... don't be. This isn't a case of injury, either. His average fastball last season was 95.2 mph, and this season that number is 95.6. His cutter averaged 91.2 mph in 2015, and this season it's at 91. His slider and changeup are also right in line with what he did last season, too.

In fact, while looking at his Fangraphs page, something caught my eye. Batters are making contact with a ton more pitches outside the strike zone. Last season batters made contact with 59.6% of pitches outside the K zone, and this season that number is all the way up to 70.6%. And that's really the only number truly outside the norm.

Therefore, the only problem that Luis may be having this season is that his non-strikes are too good. If he's going to throw a ball off the plate, which pitchers have to do every now and then, then he has to make the pitch a little less hittable. 

This is great news, because if the problem was that batters were hitting more strikes, that could mean that even his "good" pitches have become more hittable. It looks as though he can keep on throwing his stuff, and not have to worry that batters have already caught up to him. 

Fixing the issue could be as simple as Brian McCann simply giving his target a little further off the plate. 

I shouldn't say this as if that's the only thing hurting him right now. Batters are squaring up the ball more than last season, as he's giving up more hard-hit balls (opponent's Line Drive percentage this season is 33.8%, compared to 20% in 2015). But I believe that is a case of Luis just not hitting his spots. Actually, it's not so much as missing his spots, but missing big. Which is something I'm not terribly concerned about, as we're talking about a 22 year old kid.

So Yankees fans have nothing to worry about. At least not yet.


  1. Bryan, I don't think disheartened fans are giving up on him. But I think a lot were too hopeful on him this season, which is the problem.

    We came into the season knowing the starting pitchers were a question mark, but many felt or hoped sevs would fall into a #1-#3 pitcher.

    Im just alarmed that if a pitcher relies so much on a slider, and he's not confident in it, we are shot. See big Mike as an example.

    1. It's nothing more than growing pains in my opinion. Some pitchers take the league by storm and go all gang busters for the rest of their careers while some have to be eased into it.

      Severino may just be the latter. I'm far from giving up on the kid after 15 or 16 starts in the big leagues.


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