While it’s an interesting idea, Luis Severino, not Chad Green, must start the Wild Card Game

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A few days ago on MLB Network, Brian Kenny discussed the idea of starting Chad Green in next week’s Wild Card Game, and thus, saving Luis Severino. It’s a fine idea that nearly has the support of Hall of Famer John Smoltz. But there are many reasons the Yankees should avoid this plan of attack when they play the Twins next Tuesday in the Bronx. Let’s break it down.


In Kenny’s ideal scenario, Green would take the ball to open the game not as the “starter” but rather, the “opener,” and he would pitch the first two innings of the game. The opener, in the eyes of Kenny, is not the team’s best reliever as the Yankees will save them for late, high leverage situations, but he is a dominant pitcher, and Green fits the mold. From there, the Yankees would use Sonny Gray or Adam Warren, but only for innings three and four. After that, the Yankees would have four elite relievers - Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, and Aroldis Chapman - to pitch the final five innings. In this case, the club could use a combination of Kahnle and Betances for innings five through seven, Robertson for the eighth, and Chapman for the ninth if it is a close game. Not bad, right?

First off, let’s talk about the logic behind this idea by Kenny. Using a deep dive into statistics, Kenny found that the highest frequency of runs come in the first inning by a fairly significant margin given the sample size. Since the DH era began in 1973, 0.56 runs are scored in first innings, compared to just 0.45 in the second, and more than the second highest sixth inning with 0.53. In Kenny’s scenario, you need a shut-down reliever to prevent first inning runs, and for him, that guy is Chad Green.

Perhaps the driving force behind Kenny’s philosophy is that the Yankees goal as a big market, big money powerhouse is to not only win that game, but to win the World Series. Sure, you play to win the game. But what Kenny is missing here is that in order to accomplish that goal of winning the World Series, the Yankees must first win that Wild Card Game. And they don’t do that without starting their clear-cut ace, Luis Severino.
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Now, Kenny acknowledges that traditionally you start your ace, and he also recognizes that Severino is that type of ace. He cited Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, and the all-to-familiar Dallas Keuchel, all of whom have started and dominated for their club in the Wild Card Game. For Kenny, however, the Yankees cannot beat the Indians or even the Astros without saving Severino for games one and five of the ALDS.

And he might be right. But again, if the Yankees fail to even win the Wild Card Game, then it won’t matter anyways. Severino gives the team its best chance to win. This season, Severino is 13-6 with an ERA of 3.03, 1.05 WHIP, 3.08 FIP, 10.6 K/9, .209 BAA, and 221 strikeouts in 187.1 innings pitched. In the American League, Severino ranks third in ERA, WHIP, BAA, K/BB, and FIP, and he is fourth in strikeouts and K/9.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac
Another factor that Kenny has ignored is that situations matter. Green started one game this year back on June 11 where he lasted just two innings allowing two runs, on two hits, one walk, and two strikeouts. Last year as a starter, Green posted a 5.94 ERA, .289 BAA, and 1.51 WHIP in eight starts, as opposed to a 0.00 ERA, .194 BAA, and 0.96 WHIP in four appearances out of the pen. This year, Green is 5-0 out of the bullpen with a 1.65 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, .143 BAA, and 13.6 K/9. Point being, Green is much better out of the bullpen and it would be irresponsible to start him in the most important game of the season.

So what should the Yankees do? Joe Girardi would be absolutely foolish to not start Severino. Despite his lack of postseason experience, the 23-year-old will likely finish third in the Cy Young voting behind Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, and he should be trusted to get the job done in a “win or go home” one-game playoff. If he gets into trouble after the second inning, then Girardi could give him a quick hook and go to Green for innings three and four, then use his bullpen as he’s sees fit from there, thus sticking to an adapted version of Kenny’s proposal.


However, Severino is the ace, and history shows that you ride your ace in postseason games, so Girardi should, and likely will, start Severino and let him go so long as he is dealing. It’s an interesting perspective to think that Green could and should start this game, but the Wild Card Game is no time to experiment. 
Photo Credit: Anthony Grupposo | USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees need to stick with Severino, and then count on Sonny Gray to step up in games one and potentially five of the ALDS. After all, Gray has just two career postseason starts, but he has dominated in 13 innings with a 2.08 ERA, .217 BAA, 1.23 WHIP and 12 strikeouts. He has also shown that he has front-line upside and with some run support, the Yankees should feel very confident with him throwing two games in the ALDS. But first, the team has to win the Wild Card Game and the way to do that is to start Luis Severino.


Article by: Chad Raines

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