The New York Yankees loss to Oakland on Wednesday night proved that it’s time to rethink the roles of Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez.
Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez are two of the three pillars of the Yankees accelerated rebuild, along with Aaron Judge, of course. Their mesmerizing potential has New York Yankees fans dreaming of a reincarnated dynasty in the Bronx.
However, get ready to pump the breaks a bit on the high expectations. The Yankees’ star battery mates are experiencing growing pains at a most inopportune time, potentially mucking up the team’s plans for October.
Gary Can't Catch
Let’s start with Sanchez’s four passed balls in the bottom of the first in the series finale against Oakland.
Actually, if you look at the box score, you’ll see two passed balls by Sanchez, while runs scored on two wild pitches by Severino. But that only demonstrates the arbitrary nature of official scoring.
The first “wild pitch” was a low fastball over the plate that never hit the ground. It looked like Sanchez got crossed up, but even if that’s true, it’s no coincidence that happens constantly with him behind the plate.
The second was a breaking ball in the dirt that a decent catcher routinely blocks. Sanchez, though, merely threw a weak stab that made the ball careen off in the direction of the A’s dugout.
John Sterling, the voice of the Yankees radio network, described it best. “This is not only terrible, it’s embarrassing,” the legendary home run caller groaned. “Imagine if this was the Wild Card Game.”
It was a performance worthy of any Little League field in the world, and it should be more than enough to prompt a drastic but necessary move of Sanchez to DH, at least for the Wild Card Game.
Yeah, the case has been made for hiding Miguel Andujar’s shoddy glove at DH, but Wednesday night’s meltdown shows that Sanchez is the bigger risk by a mile.
Sanchez should be all out of chances. He’s tied for the MLB lead in passed balls with 13, having only played 59 games this year.
He’s tied with Houston’s Martin Maldonado, who’s played 102 games.
Thinking in terms of the future, the Yankees should consider moving Sanchez to DH permanently. Lack of focus and fundamentals at this level of baseball is unacceptable.
Trading Sanchez for a pitcher is another option, although losing his bat would be agonizing. Even in Wednesday’s game, his two-run home run essentially canceled out the runs that scored due to his blunders in the first inning.
This is typical Gary Sanchez. The Oakland game and his career thus far play like a bad Sour Patch Kids commercial.
His glove is sour. His bat is sweet.
Luis has lost it
Gary Sanchez isn’t the only one to blame for the loss against Oakland. Severino had the perfect opportunity to show his manager that he could shut down the Yankees’ likely Wild Card opponent, and he utterly blew it.
The A’s crushed three doubles and a line-drive single off Severino in the first inning. Gardner had to make a leaping catch at the wall in the second inning, and then a walk to lead off the third and two singles chased Severino from the game.
If this was a dress rehearsal for the looming one-game playoff in October, Severino demonstrated that last year’s Wild Card dud against Minnesota is a performance he is likely to repeat.
Yes, one of the doubles in Oakland was an odd-misplay by Andrew McCutchen, and yes, Sanchez’s passed balls contributed to the debacle. But an ace finds a way to keep his team in the game.
After a Cy Young-worthy first half of the season, Severino is simply not the Yankees’ ace right now.
Severino’s ERA has skyrocketed from the low 2.00s to 3.52, and he’s allowed a ridiculous 62 hits in 45.1 innings since midseason.
It’s not bad luck, either. His percentage of line drives given up is at 32.8 percent after the All-Star break, compared to 22.4 percent before.
The young fireballer has had every chance to get right, teasing with a decent start here and there, but the reality is that he’s surrendered 4-plus runs in six of his last 12 starts.
Severino’s negative momentum has been building to this point, and the Oakland game is the proverbial last straw.
Maybe it’s because he’s tipping pitches, or it could be that his slider isn’t breaking as much as it was earlier in the year. Whatever the issue, it’s getting to be too late in the season to fix it.
A strong finish to the year wouldn’t be enough to overcome his most recent loss, because he’ll be facing teams that are evaluating AAA talent or resting starters.
Giving up on Severino in the long term isn’t an option. He’s still just 24 years old, and he’ll dedicate the offseason to overcome his failures.
There is just no way he should be on the hill for the Wild Card Game.
Send a Message
The excuses need to stop now. No one wants to hear about how hard Sanchez has worked on his fielding or about how Severino can throw his 100th pitch at 99 mph.
New York can start Severino in a non-elimination game. If they make it to the World Series, Sanchez can pinch-hit in away games.
It’s a harsh message to send the young stars, but the team and the fans need to know that the Yankees care more about winning than coddling.