While New York Yankees’ “future ace” Luis Severino continues to struggle as a starter, the organization must remain composed before making him a permanent reliever.
During the year scouts proclaimed the 22-year old as the next great ace for the Bombers, the kid hasn’t satisfied any of the asinine expectations that were placed on him.
Through 10 starts, the righty sports a 0-8 record featuring an 8.59 earned run average, an opponents batting average of .333, and 65 hits surrendered in 44 innings of work.
His latest outing was a spot start on Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays for the injured Masahiro Tanaka. Severino pitched just one inning and surrendered a run on one hit before being ejected for hitting Justin Smoak in the second.
In between those 10 starts, however, Severino has experienced a handful of demotions and a move to the bullpen — where he has prospered and has become a despotic force.
In 23.1 innings of relief this season, he has held opponents to a .105/.209/.158 slash line while maintaining a 0.39 ERA and striking out 25.
More impressively, his strikeout-per-nine ratio sits at 9.6 out of the ‘pen while his rate was 7.8 as a starter. Additionally, he has yet to surrender a home run while giving up 10 as a starter this season.
There are many reasons why he strives in the bullpen.
Coming into ballgames in relief gives him the opportunity to face hitters only once. His slider and changeup are not stellar enough to “fool” hitters twice. The numbers support that claim, as well.
When batters face Severino (in his career as a starting pitcher) for the first time in a game, they slash .257/.333/.449 but come the second plate appearance, they slash .319/.373/.540.
Above any numbers, however, Severino has been profiting remarkably by coming in for an inning or two and letting his electric fastball fly with a little increase of adrenaline.
Despite how stellar this kid is out of the ‘pen, the Yankees need to understand that now is not the time to throw in the towel on Severino’s chances of turning into that ace — and manager Joe Girardi agrees.
“I’m not going to look at [Severino’s spot start] too much because I know he’s not going for a long period of time,” Girardi told Wallace Mathews of ESPN. “But we still envision him as a starter. That’s how we’ve envisioned him.”
Taking into consideration Severino’s age and limitless potential, the fact that the organization refuses to abandon him as a starter is quite rational.
Severino bestowed the skill to thrive in a starter’s role in 2015 (11 GS, 5-3, 2.89 ERA) and New York will undoubtedly take much more out of a good starter, at this point, than a solid reliever.
Instead of declaring him as a reliever at this moment in time, the source of why he is much better in relief must be found. The main issue is, as a starter, the phenom grappled with his secondary pitches to no success, requiring him to rely on his fastball.
With that came the realization that you cannot overpower major league hitters, as a starter, with just your fastball. Especially when facing batters three or maybe four times an outing.
While his slider is respectable, his changeup — which he has thrown only 10.01% this season, per Brooks Baseball — must be developed in order for the kid to meet his full potential.
Even though he’s primarily using his fastball and slider throughout his stint in a relief role (meaning he’s not sharpening the changeup now), there is value coming out of his contemporary role.
Pitching under pressure, where and when to make pitches, working in tough situations, and being successful in them has given Severino experience to look back on if he were to find himself in the same situation again.
After 2016 reaches its conclusion, it’s back to the rotation for Luis Severino. With sharpening his changeup being the main focus this upcoming winter with experience of high-leveraged situations on his resume, he should be able to carry over his relief abilities into the rotation yet again.
Unless that procedure collapses, it’s crystal clear that Severino’s future is in the rotation and not the next promising starter to convert into a reliever.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.