We all have fears, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve been through, you’re scared of something. It might be clowns, maybe it’s spiders, perhaps it’s being strapped to a chair Clockwork Orange style, and forced to watch a Ben Stiller movie marathon. Totally a plausible scenario, might I add. While not quite as frightening as any of the aforementioned options, I must admit, I have developed a new fear. And no it’s not the fear of Grey mistaking me for Giancarlo, and having to have him surgically removed from my toilet leg. No, that ain’t it, though I am frightened by that thought. It’s far more topical, and far less titillating. It’s the fear of covering a bad start in my weekly pitching profiles. What fate could be worse than writing up an absolute slugfest? What if the pitcher I pick is chased in less than 3 innings? What if he trips and falls jumping imaginary lines? Shizz happens, right? So to prevent this, I decided to pick out three games, record them, and use the start I like best. In my whitewashed, pre-fab world of pitching, there are no bad starts, only starters I poorly ranked. So who did I go with? Who was this lucky recipient of my barely readable prose? Well, it just so happens, I decided to go ying to last week’s yang, and cover another young AL East starter, facing the Cubs on Sunday Night baseball. That’s right, this week’s Pitcher Profile is on Yankees righty Luis Severino. Not a bad time to dive into the young flamethrower as he’s hotter than fish grease.
Scouting Report: Tonight we’re looking at one of the top breakout starters of April. Severino was brilliant going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 11.00 K/9, and a 1.33 Bb/9 over 27 innings. He relies heavily on two pitches, his high 90’s fastball, that can touch 100, and his hard slide piece. Occasionally he’ll mix in his change, but he’s thrown it less this year, and to better results. He’s predominantly a groundball pitcher, but does get a fair amount of infield flys, and popups off his fastball. Now that Noah Syndergaard is on the shelf for three months, Severino holds the distinction of the highest average fastball velocity in the majors, and he uses it to his advantage. Tonight he faces a tough Cubs lineup on a cold night in early May, opposing veteran starter Jon Lester. Let’s get into the game.
Luis starts out working Schwarber away on three straight fastballs, to go down 3-0. The righty then battles back with two nice fastballs in the strike zone to even the count, before putting away the big man with a change, high and on the outside of the zone.
Here comes Kris Bryant, and within an instant, there goes Kris Bryant. As the Severino strikes out the reigning NL MVP on three pitches, going fastball, slider, and a nasty slider in the dirt for a swinging strike.
Next up is the struggling Anthony Rizzo, 2 for his last 31. Let’s make that 2 for his last 32, as in typical struggling player fashion, he swings at the first pitch, and grounds out to Matt Holiday at first. 3 up and 3 down for Luis, as he gets through Schwarber, Bryant, and Rizzo on 12 pitches.
First Inning: 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 K’s
The second inning starts the way the first inning ends. One pitch, one swing, and one out, as Zobrist hits a flyball to centerfield. Next up is Addison Russell, and the young shortstop watches the first pitch pass by for a strike at 99 MPH, before missing on a slider over the plate for strike two. Russell then swings at the third pitch he sees, and grounds out to Didi at short. Two outs, and Jon Jay steps into the batter box; after going down 2-0, Severino battles back, and runs the count full, before retiring Jay on a 100 MPH fastball. Jay hacks at the pitch bouncing one back to the pitcher, who gingerly tosses it to first for the third out. Another efficient inning for Luis, as he sits down all three Cubs on 12 pitches.
Second Inning: 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 0 K’s
The third frame starts off with a Willson Contreras groundout on a slider. So far Severino has gotten tons of groundball outs, particularly from his slider. It’s easy to see that it’s definitely the pitch driving his high-40’s groundball rate, and possibly a fair amount of his early season success. After a loud flyout by Jon Lester to left, up steps Javier Baez. An 8 pitch battle ensues, where Baez battles balls all over the zone to stay alive, including one he fouls off his foot that takes him to the ground. After a brief pause, and a check in with the trainers, Baez gets back up, and looks ready to go. On the next pitch he takes full advantage of a hanging slider over the middle inner-half, as Baez punishes Severino’s offering with the quickness, for a homer to left. That ball didn’t fool anyone, well, anyone but Aaron Hicks.
Next up is the top of the order, let’s see what happens the second time through this Cubs lineup. Severino jumps out to a 1-2 count on Schwarber, before the big man pokes a double to left field over the still confused Aaron Hicks’ head. Couple things on this play, first, Severino made a nice pitch, 99 right on the bottom corner of the zone. Second, Schwarber’s power is nuts. He literally reached out, and poked this ball to the warning track in left. He hit it the way guys poke singles to the opposite field. Good piece of hitting by Schwarber, and here comes Kris Bryant with a runner in scoring position. Bryant and Severino battle a bit, with the righty running the count full, before putting Bryant away on a slider that drops out of the zone. That put away pitch to Bryant was bookends of the way the first inning ended. The frame is over, and Luis is jacked up as he’s headed toward the dugout.
Severino has had great command of all three of his pitches tonight. For the most part, he’s been working low and on the outside part of the plate, but really he’s made pitches all over the zone tonight.
Third Inning: 2 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, 1 K
Up steps the struggling Anthony Rizzo, who gets ahead of Severino 2-1 before fouling off a high fastball. With a perfect pitch to hit down Main Street, Rizzo instead watches strike three. Damn, H to the Rizzo is freaking awful at the moment. Really discouraging at bat from the Cubs cleanup hitter. It’s Ben Zobrist’s turn, and the next at bat is a frustrating one, as Severino strikes out the veteran on a low slider, but it bounces past Austin Romine for a wild pitch. So Zobrist takes first. Following a stroke of bad luck, Luis runs the count full on the next batter, Addison Russell, before walking him on the 7th pitch of the at bat. Ugh, bit of a jam for Severino with runners at first and second, and one out. Fear not Severino loyalists, as up steps Jon Jay. The Federalist promptly swings at the first pitch, and nearly grounds into a double play. The Yankees however, have to settle for a fielders choice at second, two outs. Here comes Willson Contreras, the catcher swings at strike one, on a nasty 89 MPH slider that drops out of the zone. The next pitch Severino goes right back to the slider, and Contreras hacks this one back to the pitcher. Severino makes a nice stab on the rising ball, and tosses to first for the third out. Severino has gotten out of jams in consecutive innings, and is still holding the Cubs to a single run.
Fourth Inning: 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 runs, 2 K’s
Nothing like the pitcher leading off the inning, as Severino goes right at Lester. Striking his colleague out on four pitches, putting him away on a slider middle-in that the pitcher halfheartedly hacks at.
Now it’s Javier Baez, and Severino is looking for revenge. As it was the second baseman who took Severino deep his last time up. Luis runs the count full on Baez, working exclusively low in the zone with fastballs and sliders, before jamming in some high heat at 99, for a swinging third strike.
The top of the order is here for a third time through, as Schwarber steps up. After getting down 0-1, Joe Buck’s Novio hammers a changeup over the middle of the plate for a double. Kris Bryant steps up again with Schwarber in scoring position. This time the MVP swings at a first pitch slider, and grounds out to Didi at short to end the inning. Another strong inning from Severino; he’s at 83 pitches and should be coming out for the 6th, having been the Yankees last out in the 5th.
Fifth Inning: 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 runs, 2 K’s
Anthony Rizzo leads off the 6th, and immediately strikes out a three pitches. Including a strike three slider that was way low, and outside. Severino has done a nice job of setting hitters up with fastballs low in the zone tonight, before planting the wipeout slider on them. After getting ahead of Ben Zobrist, Luis leaves one over the outside part of the plate, and the utility man goes the other way pushing a single to left. With the runner at first, Addison Russell is steps up next. The shortstop falls behind 1-2, before driving a slider into the ground on the right side to Didi. The Yankees fields it cleanly, and the Bombers turn two to end the inning. Severino is at 95 pitches through 6, will they bring him out for the 7th?
Sixth Inning: 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 runs, 1 K
Here comes Severino out for the 7th, the Yanks took the lead at the top half of the inning, and he’s now in line for the win. Permitted he, and the bullpen, hold it together. The righty begins the 7th up 2-2 on Jon Jay, who fouls off two straight pitches before hitting a slider for a hard groundball to Didi. The Notorious scoops the ball, and throws to Holiday for the first out of the inning. Tyler Clippard is up in the pen, I wonder if Willson Contreras will be the last batter Severino sees? Luis starts off with a meatball, middle low on a 98 MPH fastball. Nice to see Severino is maintaining that velocity late into the start. Contreras battles off three consecutive pitches in a 2-2 count, before watching another pitch, this time a slider down Main Street, for strike three.
Severino really got away with one there, as that’s two out of three strikes that he watched. Up steps pinch hitter Tommy La Stella who replaces Jon Lester’s spot in the lineup. Now at 109 pitches, I imagine this is Severino’s final batter. Doesn’t matter, he makes quick work of La Stella, getting a groundball to the right side for the final out of the inning. Quite a day for Severino, who continues his breakout first half.
Seventh Inning: 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 1 K
Final Line: 7 innings, 111 pitches (75 for strikes), 1 ER, 1 HR, 4 hits, 1 walk, 9 K’s, Gamescore: 72
Summary: Severino’s fastball command was on point tonight, and due to this all of his sequencing with the slider and change fall in line off of that pitch. He was consistently in the 97-100 MPH range on his heat, even late into tonight’s start. His slider was an effective out pitch to both righties and lefties, working low or out of the zone in two strike counts. In fact, the slider was the driving factor behind 18 of Severino’s 21 outs coming by either groundball or the strikeout. His highly debated changeup was effective when used tonight. You can count me amongst the camp that believes it wouldn’t be the worst thing if the young righty used the pitch a little more frequently. In closing it’s easy to see why Severino’s results have improved so far this season, with improved fastball command, better usage of his offspeed pitches, and the ability to pound the zone with all three offerings to generate whiffs, and weak groundball contact. Unfortunately for Severino, and his owners, Aroldis Chapman blew this game in the 9th, and the Yanks needed extra innings to complete the sweep of the world champs.
Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings for ROS based on 12-team Roto)
- Some serious movement amongst players on the list, with injuries to Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber, Aaron Nola, Cole Hamels, and James Paxton. The saddest of all is Paxton, who earned his top 10 ranking last week. He’s slated to miss three turns in the rotation.
- With another start to evaluate, though it was not his best, I’m bumping Andrew Triggs up. With really only one bad turn out of 6 Triggs has jumped 40 spots to 50th on the list. The peripherals to date are too good to ignore, with the 12th best walk rate in baseball, and the 9th best groundball rate, Triggs is mastering his own destiny.
- Speaking of elite groundball rates, everyone put your hands together for Kyle Freeland, owner of the highest groundball rate among starters at 64.2%. The lefty has now made three consecutive quality starts, yielding just 2 earned runs over 19.1 innings.
- So Matt Harvey was dropped down to 80, and really should the suspension even have anything to do with it? He’s been pitching like garbage for a year now, and even his peripherals say he’s a 5+ ERA pitcher.
- Not much movement in the top ten. Well, outside the last two spots, with Cueto and Archer jumping up, following the news of injuries to Paxton and Kluber. Huge jump by Michael Pineda, who looks like he’s made the step-forward this year. he seems to be figuring out how to limit his mistakes over the heart of the plate. He’s still homer prone, but it looks to be far more luck based than in previous years.
- With strong outings in his last two turns, Jeff Samardzija made a big jump. He’s pitched much better than his ERA indicates, and I’m inclined to buy on Shark. Particularly if a less savvy owner, doesn’t look deeper at the numbers.
- Do I need to apologize for my strong stance on Mike Foltynewicz? I’m still not going to give him up like I’m Rick-Rolling my readers, but he did drop a fair amount this week from 43rd last week to 59th this week.