The Yankees have no choice but to demote struggling pitcher

mlb: kansas city royals at new york yankees, luis severino
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, the New York Yankees were blindsided with a major starting pitching issue when Domingo German was placed on the restricted list due to alcohol abuse. The team’s hopes rested on Luis Severino to turn his season around, but his ERA has continued to inflate, currently standing at an alarming 7.74.

Moreover, his strikeouts have dipped to 7.88 per nine innings, while his walk rate and home runs per nine innings have seen a significant increase.

A Closer Look at Severino’s Decline With the Yankees

The issues run deeper for Severino, with several key metrics witnessing a downfall. Notably, he has a 63.3% left-on-base rate, a 40.4% ground-ball rate, and a career-high 21% HR/FB ratio across 61.2 innings.

Severino has turned out to be a liability this season, posting a sky-high 11.22 ERA in July and surrendering 27 earned runs across 21.2 innings. Disturbingly, he has conceded a home run in six consecutive games, including three instances where he gave up two long balls. A once formidable strikeout pitcher, Severino’s numbers have drastically reduced, and his performance continues to falter.

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Manager Boone’s Stance on Severino

In the aftermath of Friday’s defeat, manager Aaron Boone expressed openness to exploring all options with Severino, even contemplating a possible demotion to the bullpen.

“Everything is on the table moving forward. We’ll talk through it. The biggest thing is, whatever we do, it’s trying to continue to get him to find that consistency.”

The stark reality is that Severino, in his current form, can’t be relied upon in the critical phase of a Wild Card race. The Yankees must look for alternatives in their starting rotation and might have to turn to their young prospects.

Potential Alternative: Randy Vasquez

A likely alternative is 24-year-old Randy Vasquez, who has managed a 1.17 ERA across 15.1 innings this season, including a remarkable 96.6% left-on-base rate. Despite some struggles in Triple-A this year, Vasquez has shown significant potential and has performed well in his three starts this season.

In addition, the Yankees are also returning Nestor Cortes to start Saturday’s game.

Severino’s Changed Pitch Repertoire

This season, Severino has altered his pitch repertoire, relying on a four-seam fastball (48.7%), changeup (20.4%), slider (18.1%), and cutter (12.9%). Unfortunately, his spin rate and break on his pitches have drastically changed.

His fastball, once a potent weapon, is currently allowing a .370 batting average, a drastic increase from last year’s .186. Similarly, his famed slider now has a .302 batting average, a far cry from the .169 it enjoyed in the previous season.

Notably, his slider this year has 40.2 inches of vertical movement (down from 41 inches) and 10.2 inches of horizontal break (compared to 10.5 in 2022). His fastball, too, has seen more than an inch drop in vertical movement, a significant factor in his declining performance.

The Road Ahead For the Yankees

Severino has unfortunately lost the confidence of the coaching staff, compelling the Yankees to make some adjustments and depend on others to step up. Perhaps general manager Brian Cashman should have sought to acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, after all.