Luis Severino returning to form is the Yankees' biggest key to success down the stretch

The number one need for the Yankees down the stretch is...Aaron Boone correctly managing the bullpen.  

Photo Courtesy: New York Post

Figured I would open up with a joke leading into the holiday weekend. So, unfortunately no, it is not the polarizing skipper’s ineptitude to manage his pitching staff. I trust the talent of Chapman, Betances, Britton, Robertson, Green, and Kahnle in big spots as they have done it before. It is not the lackluster and inconsistent hitting that has plagued the Yanks for almost two months. Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, the newly acquired Andrew McCutchen, and hopefully Aaron Judge will be more than enough hitting to spark this lineup. If the Yankees want to have a successful playoff run, culminating with a 28th championship, they need LUIS SEVERINO to start pitching like an ace once again.

In the first half of the season, Severino was arguably the CY Young of the American League. From the opener in Toronto in late March until July 12th, Sevy was 14-2, with a 2.12 ERA; opponents were hitting only .198 against him and his WHIP was 0.96. His most impressive outing was a complete game shutout against the World Champion Astros on the road in Houston. Severino went the distance, giving up zero runs on five hits, one walk and ten strikeouts. Everyone knew how much the Yanks struggled in Houston in the 2017 ALCS, and Severino came in and emphatically slammed the door shut on the champs. During this impressive first-half (and even through his slump), Sevy had the highest average fastball amongst all starting pitchers and would be consistently hitting 98-99 MPH from the first pitch to the end of his line. Pair that fastball with his devastating slider, and the 24 year-old phenom established himself as the game’s next superstar.

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Severino’s struggles began in his last start before the All-Star break when the Yanks opened a four-game set with the Indians in Cleveland. He went only five innings, giving up four runs on nine hits and only striking out one batter. This start was the turning point for Severino: he went from the AL CY Young, to a struggling young pitcher who still has a lot left to learn about pitching in the big leagues. Not including his start tonight against the Tigers, here are Sevy’s numbers post-All Star Break: 3-4, 6.63 ERA and opponents are hitting .318 against him. Not great.

When seeing the pre- and post-All-Star Break stat lines, one would concur that the individual in question is injured. That is what is very strange about Severino’s lackluster second half: his velocity has been the same. There have been some mechanical issues, but quite frankly it seems to be a mental issue with Sevy. The baseball season is a yearlong grind and every year, we see it weigh on the psyches of all ballplayers, especially young players. Severino is only 24; last year, at only 23 years old, he threw 210 innings, including the postseason. Even though he started off extremely strong this year, pitching all of those innings may have finally caught up with him, both physically and mentally. What I, along with many other Yankee fans, do not understand is why Boone or Cashman didn’t just have him rest for a start? Yes, the Yankees have been chasing the Red Sox for the better part of the season and Severino is the best pitcher on the staff and you want him out there as often as possible, but a skipped start could have done wonders for his slump.

Lately, Sevy has been grinding through starts; he has picked up some wins and has struck out his fair share of batters, but he is still not at “peak” Luis Severino. It is good to see him grinding and fighting through his struggles, but I truly believe a skipped start in late July/early August would have been beneficial. When you are a superstar ace, constant starts of giving up 3-5 runs just will not cut it. Aces do not get rocked by teams like the Royals, White Sox, Mets, and Tigers. On a positive note, Sevy does not seem to be letting this slump bother him as he is always positive in the dugout, cheering on his teammates and keeping the team loose. That is good to see from anyone slumping, especially a youngster. He is one of the stars of the team and keeping a positive attitude is beneficial for the locker room’s culture.

The Yankees’ chances of winning the division are on life support. Boston just does not lose games, so the Wild Card game will be in the Yank’s future for the second year in a row. There will be people arguing for Happ, CC, and Tanaka to pitch that game. This game NEEDS to be pitched by Luis Severino. Yes, the Twins rocked him last year. Yes, he did not make it out of the first. However, this is the Yankees’ future. Forget future, this is the Yankees’ present. Severino is a top-flight starting pitcher in this league and he has the stuff to go out and shut down the Oakland A’s (probably).

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Someone (anyone, please!) needs to tap into Sevy and plead for the old Luis Severino back, ala Vince McMahon to Stone Cold Steve Austin during the Invasion (for all old-school WWE fans reading). Just as Austin came back and dropped every member of WCW and ECW with a stunner, Sevy will come out to a rocking Yankee Stadium and shove 98mph down the throats of Chapman, Lowrie, and Davis and put an end to Money Ball for good. It will happen (it needs to happen or I will lose my mind over the winter on what could have been with this team). Luis Severino needs to get right and he will. He’s too special of a talent not to fix himself. He is the key to this team taking home the title this year.

Article by: John Keefe


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