Stating exactly what Luis Severino would be at the start of the season was a puzzle. He flashed such different versions of himself over the previous two years that there was no telling if he’d stick in the rotation or be relegated to the bullpen, whether because of his own lacking presence or a less deniable one among other in-house competition. But after six starts, he’s given us — and the Yankees — an emphatic answer.
Luis Severino is a starter. And maybe more.
We’re at the point where the basis for these numbers has largely become reliable for what we could expect moving forward. There are a couple key components. Austin Yamada explains how two-plane movement in Severino’s slider has been giving hitters fits. Matthew Mocarsky forecasted at the season’s start that Severino’s changeup could be critical to balancing his line drives and grounders, which is exactly what’s happened.
Pitches are rarely distributed dead equally. Acknowledging each one’s weighted value as if they were can provide a solid picture of just how much impact a certain pitch is having in a guy’s repertoire. And for Severino, his changeup has been crucial.
The caveat with weighted pitch values is how the amount thrown directly dictates how often a hitter has the chance to knock it around. Severino hasn’t thrown a ton of changeups and that certainly contributes to the offering’s weighted value. But the numbers suggest that when he has thrown it, he’s paced play with it.
We could wonder what would happen if he started throwing it just a little more and his fastball just a little less, but let’s zoom out. Let’s regard what Luis Severino is showing us in 2017 as his first well-planted foot in the majors. He’s already shown he can make adjustments, so let’s also consider he’s got one or two more in him that elevate his game.
What would that mean for the Yankees?
Severino could represent a home-grown anchor in their rotation, and that’s something they haven’t had in a long time. Chien-Ming Wang’s best work was a flash in the pan that wasn’t completely supported by his peripherals. Andy Pettitte was more impressive for his steadiness than his dominance. And before that? You’re going back to at least the 70s.
It would be interesting to see how the Yankees would approach Severino’s contract if he continues on his current course. They haven’t really been in a position to sign a young star to a sweetheart deal like, say, the Rays. They also have the financial wherewithal to not feel such pressure.
But the fact remains that he could be more important than any other player in their young core, and how they decide to go about keeping him in New York could have sizable implications for the franchise.
We can say it’s only six weeks into the 2017 season, but Luis Severino is a big reason the Yankees have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. And he’s a big reason it could stay that good, too.
Tim Jackson is a writer and educator who loves pitching duels. Find him and all his baseball thoughts online at timjacksonwrites.com/baseball and @TimCertain.