Yankees’ starting pitcher is playing his way into a departure

luis severino, yankees

The New York Yankees‘ starting rotation braces for a significant boost with the impending return of Carlos Rodon. The free-agent acquisition, who joined the Yankees with a six-year, $162 million deal, is slated to return on July 7 after a positive rehabilitation assignment.

Carlos Rodon: A Promising Return

During his rehab assignment, Rodon delivered a solid 3.2 scoreless innings with A+ Hudson Valley, striking out eight batters. At 30 years old, Rodon is keen to make his mark with the Yankees this season, allowing for one pre-All-Star break appearance, followed by a week off prior to his second performance at the MLB level.

The timing of Rodon’s return could not be better for the Yankees, who are grappling with concerns in their starting rotation, most notably with Luis Severino.

Luis Severino’s Inconsistencies

Severino, aged 29, has had a rocky season, posting a disappointing 6.30 ERA and averaging 7.65 strikeouts per nine. His left-on-base rate stands at 64.8%, and he has a 38.3% ground ball rate. Alarmingly, he has surrendered the most home runs of his career this season, averaging 2.25 per nine innings with an 18.2% home run to fly ball ratio.

Severino’s performance this season contrasts starkly with his fantastic run in 2022 when he pitched over 100 innings for the first time since 2018, earning a 3.18 ERA with nearly ten strikeouts per nine. His performance took a turn for the worse against the St. Louis Cardinals this past Saturday, allowing seven earned runs and two home runs.

Despite his lackluster season, Severino had a standout performance against the Texas Rangers, delivering six scoreless innings. However, this remains an isolated feat, overshadowed by the 21 earned runs he conceded over his previous four games.

Decision Time for Yankees: The Future of Severino

With Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman having opted for Severino’s $15 million club option for the 2023 season, the veteran pitcher is expected to hit free agency during the upcoming off-season.

The Yankees face a difficult decision: to let him leave or to re-sign him with hopes of consistent performances and becoming a key arm in the rotation. Given Severino’s underperformance this season, investing the considerable salary elsewhere seems more prudent.

“I think this whole year has been concerning for me,” Severino said on Saturday. “I want to be able to go out there and help my team. It’s frustrating that I can’t do that right now.”

Assessing Severino’s Pitching

A close look at Severino’s pitching reveals an average fastball velocity of 96.4 mph. However, opposition hitters are averaging .300 against it, with a 19.5% whiff rate and a .556 slugging percentage.

Severino’s changeup has been his most effective pitch, yielding a .222 batting average against. However, his slider has seen a drastic decline, with its usage dropping to 14.3% compared to 20.4% last year.

Clearly, pitching coach Matt Blake aims to limit the slider’s usage due to its lackluster performance, which has resulted in a .296 batting average and .556 slugging rate against it.

While Severino’s slider maintains a strong 10.3-inch horizontal movement, his fastball is generating less vertical and horizontal movement, indicating potential problems. Furthermore, the overall decrease in pitch break could be due to a lack of proper grip or minor off-balance in his fundamentals.

Severino’s Future: A Tough Call for the Yankees

Should Severino’s performance continue its current downward trajectory, the Yankees will face a tough decision this off-season: part ways or extend a cheaper deal banking on a comeback.

In either scenario, the Yankees cannot afford a long-term liability in their rotation. Thus, all eyes will be on Severino after the All-Star break, with the team and fans hoping for a significant turnaround.

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