Yankees trying to save starting pitcher’s season

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees, luis severino
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are pulling out all the stops to salvage Luis Severino’s 2023 season. Severino’s performance, a stark contrast from his former glory days, has shown signs of recovery only once since 2018, during the 2022 season when he pitched over 100 innings.

A Recap of Severino’s Performance

Last year, the 29-year-old appeared to have regained his footing, boasting a 3.18 ERA, 3.38 xFIP, 9.88 strikeouts per nine innings, 80% left-on-base rate, and a 44.3% ground ball rate. Unhesitatingly, the Yankees picked up his $15 million club option, but his season has since veered off in an undesirable direction.

Currently, Severino grapples with a 7.38 ERA, 5.20 xFIP, and 7.80 strikeouts per nine innings with a 61.3% left-on-base-rate. Clearly, his numbers have plummeted. He’s recorded the highest walk rate in his career at 4.01 per nine innings (minimum of 40 innings) and has conceded the most home runs in his career at 2.32 per nine innings, coupled with a 19% HR/FB ratio.

Despite the drastic drop in his performance, the Yankees are persistently trying to find ways to revive his pitch quality and reinstate his rhythm.

The Yankee’s Efforts for Revival

Manager Aaron Boone conveyed his optimism regarding Severino’s potential comeback, stating, “I hope it helps him in a lot of ways. A couple more bullpens along the way. We’ve been trying to make little tweaks and adjustments to get him where he’s back to being Sevy.”

In July, Severino registered an 18.90 ERA, allowing 14 earned runs over a mere 6.2 innings. His performance in June was slightly better, with a 6.93 ERA, yielding 19 earned runs over 24.2 innings.

Collectively, he’s become the weakest starting pitcher on the roster by a significant margin. If a decision to drop a pitcher were to be made today, it would undoubtedly be Severino.

Analyzing Severino’s Pitch Quality

Severino’s pitching arsenal comprises a four-seam fastball, change-up, slider, and cutter. This season has seen a reduced use of his slider, with about a 6% drop-off.

His fastball currently allows a .337 batting average against, and hitters are batting .276 against his previously reliable slider. Notably, his fastball vertical movement has dipped over an inch, his change-up lacks the same movement, and his slider is missing the crucial drop, resulting in only 3.4 inches of vertical movement as compared to 4.8 last year.

With struggling spin rates and an overall decline in pitch movement, it’s evident that Severino is no longer the pitcher he once was. Whether this change is due to a lingering injury or gradual regression over time, it seems probable that the Yankees will let him explore free agency in the upcoming off-season, looking instead toward another starter.

The Way Forward for the Yankees

Following the acquisition of Carlos Rodon, the Yankees might consider deploying Clarke Schmidt next year and bringing back Domingo German in the final year of arbitration. However, time is running out for Severino to demonstrate his worth.

The Yankees’ next step in handling Severino’s performance will be intriguing to watch, particularly in terms of allowing him to regain his form. If his struggles persist, moving him to a full-time bullpen role might become necessary, a development that is far from ideal.

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