The New York Yankees have announced Luis Severino as their starting pitcher for the 2018 Wild Card Game against the Oakland A’s. The right-hander also started the WCG for the Yankees last year.
Overall, Severino had an excellent season this summer. He earned his second straight All-Star berth, and his numbers were strong across the board.
Severino, 2018: 3.39 ERA, 191⅓ ip, 220 Ks, 46 BB, 19 HR, 2.95 FIP
However, a closer look tells a more complicated story. After posting a 2.31 ERA in a dominant first half of the year, he slowed down significantly in the second half to the tune of a 5.57 mark. The biggest culprit was a terrible July, followed by a merely pedestrian August. He did rebound in his last few starts of the season, but whichever way you slice it his summer can best be described as streaky. He can be among the best and rack up zeroes and strikeouts, but he can also get hit hard.
The 24-year-old faced the A’s twice this year, once each at home and on the road. The first time around, back in May at Yankee Stadium, he threw a quality start with one run in six innings. More recently, though, he got lit up at the Coliseum in early September, failing to make it out of the 3rd.
Severino, 5/13 vs. OAK: 6 ip, 1 run, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits
Severino, 9/05 @ OAK: 2⅔ ip, 6 runs (5 ER), 3 Ks, 1 BB, 6 hits
In the first game, Jed Lowrie led the way with two hits against Severino, including the RBI single for the lone run. In the followup affair, Lowrie again notched two hits, along with doubles by Ramon Laureano, Khris Davis, and Matt Olson. That second game was also marked by a sloppy 1st inning that saw two wild pitches from Severino and two passed balls by catcher Gary Sanchez, who will be behind the plate again on Wednesday.
In addition to the two meetings this summer, Severino also met the A’s once in 2016 and again in 2017. However, the lineups he faced only featured a few members of the squad he’ll see on Wednesday, so they aren’t particularly relevant.
This isn’t the first time Severino will start the Wild Card Game. He did so last year as well, and the results were disastrous. He faced six batters in the 1st inning, and they did the following:
- Homer (Brian Dozier)
- Homer (Eddie Rosario)
The Yankees went on to beat the Twins despite the shaky start, but Severino was a complete dud. He only recorded one out, forcing the bullpen to cover the final 8⅔ innings. To his credit, he fared better for the rest of the postseason, but he still wasn’t great. After a quality win over the Indians (7 ip, 3 runs, 9 Ks), he failed to make it out of the 5th in either of his two outings against the Astros in the ALCS (total of 4 runs, 6 BB, 3 Ks). All told, he allowed five homers in 16 postseason innings.
In terms of stuff, Severino features a three-pitch arsenal. He throws his 98 mph four-seam fastball about half the time, and it can reach 101 at its best. His slider comes in about a third of the time and his changeup fills in the rest, with both secondaries averaging 88 mph. In September, the gap between his fastball and change shrank to more like 8 mph instead of 10.
Here’s a look at how Severino has fared against the A’s hitters during his career:
- Jed Lowrie: 6-for-11, 3 Ks
- Khris Davis: 1-for-9, double, BB, 4 Ks
- Matt Chapman: 1-for-6, BB, K
- Matt Olson: 1-for-5, double, 3 Ks
- Marcus Semien: 1-for-6, K
- Stephen Piscotty: 1-for-2, K
- Ramon Laureano: 1-for-2, double, K
- Jonathan Lucroy: 1-for-2
- Mark Canha: 1-for-6, HR
- Chad Pinder: 1-for-4
- Matt Joyce: 1-for-4, 2 BB, K
- Josh Phegley: 0-for-1
- Nick Martini: Haven’t faced each other
- Franklin Barreto: Haven’t faced each other
For whatever these tiny matchup samples are worth, Lowrie is the guy to watch. It seems unlikely that Canha will be in the starting lineup, which is too bad since he’s the only one who’s homered off Severino. One thing worth noting is that, although only Lowrie has awesome numbers against him, everybody except Phegley has at least one hit (and it seems highly unlikely they’d face each other anyway). There will be strikeouts, but nobody has looked completely overmatched.
I love this. New York’s starting options seemed to be down to Severino, righty Masahiro Tanaka, and lefty J.A. Happ. The one I least wanted to face was Happ, who shut down the A’s in early September and was the Yankees’ hottest starter down the stretch. The one I most wanted to face was Severino, who was cold in the second half and recently got torched by Oakland.
Don’t get me wrong: Severino is a good pitcher, maybe even a great one. He could absolutely stifle the A’s. But so could any of the three options in theory, and I think he has the smallest chance of doing so while also carrying the highest odds of getting walloped.
Of course, all of this might not end up mattering. Severino was a total non-factor in last year’s game, and his team still won anyway. The Yankees will also have Happ, Tanaka, and Lance Lynn on the roster (via Ben Ross, NBCS), so they have long-man options if things start off rocky again. And the A’s themselves appear to be eschewing a starter entirely, instead opening with reliever Liam Hendriks and possibly looking at a full bullpen game, so who are we to judge?
Still, though. This was the news I was hoping to see today.