Should the Yankees limit Luis Severino’s Workload?

Feb 24, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) during practice at George M. Steinbrenner Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) during practice at George M. Steinbrenner Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s an undisputed fact that the Yankees view 22-year old phenom Luis Severino as a huge part of the team’s future.

If there’s one thing that always comes up with any team’s handling of young pitchers, it’s workload. Severino is no different, and the question of an innings limit has definitely come up as he prepares for his first full season in a major league rotation. I think having Severino on the mound every fifth day gives the team its best chance to win, so I say let him pitch.

Typically, studies have shown that increasing a young pitcher’s workload by more than 30 or 40 innings from season to season opens up the path to catastrophic injury. When administered correctly, an innings limit can be a very useful tool in ensuring that a pitcher’s bright future actually comes to pass, and that he doesn’t tear something and flame out before he’s 25. I just don’t quite think teams have figured out how to properly administer innings limits just yet.

Remember this guy? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Remember this guy? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Whenever I think this topic, I inevitably have traumatic flashbacks about the “Joba Rules.” Joba Chamberlain was once one of the most talked about prospects in all of baseball. He electrified us all with his call up late in 2007, and had us all excited for the future.

Unfortunately, the Yankees went and mucked that all up because they never really figured out how to limit his innings effectively.

By 2009, he had joined the rotation full time, but a haphazard interpretation of the made up rules really hampered his development. Often times, Joba would be pulled only a few innings into a start, or skipped all together. There was no consistency to any of it, and I just don’t think he ever got comfortable. He struggled, and spent the rest of his Yankees career in the pen.

Frankly, I don’t even think the Yankees should be worried about Severino’s innings limit, at least not enough to put a hard cap on it. For one, he pitched 161.2 innings across three levels last season. If you’re only looking to add 30 or 40 innings to that total, that means he’d be slated to work 190-200 innings this season. The Yankees haven’t had a guy go 200 innings since 2013, and CC Sabathia led them with only 167.1 innings last season.

I understand that everyone got hurt last year, but Girardi’s not the type to overwork his young guys anyway. Also, Brian Cashman has built one of the best bullpens in baseball for the purpose of keeping his starters fresh, and Girardi won’t shy away from going to the pen early and often to save his rotation arms.

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Girardi is also pretty good at taking care of his players in general. He sometimes will pull a young pitcher too early, but I feel safe in knowing that he’ll never hang Severino out to dry on a bad night. There would never be a situation where Girardi leaves Severino in for 160+ pitches, like Dallas Green did to a young Al Leiter in 1987.

We’re living in a different era. Only 14 American League pitchers even pitched 200+ innings last season anyway. Nobody under 25 pitched more than 176 innings even (Trevor Bauer, Indians). Teams don’t burn through young pitchers like they did in Leiter’s day.

Here’s what I think the team should do.

Severino needs to start if the Yankees are going to have a chance to win the division and make a deep run into the playoffs. I think this is a situation best played by ear, on a game-to-game basis. If Severino is cruising, let him pitch. If he’s having a tough day where he’s got men on base and is having to work out of trouble a lot, take him out. Eight smooth innings are much easier on a young arm than four or five rough ones.

If the Yankees are up big, or if the bullpen is fresh, don’t leave Severino in past the fifth or sixth inning. If you have a stretch where a lot of games are being played, bring someone up from AAA to give everyone an extra day. You can even skip Severino if he’s been taxed too harshly for a few starts in a row. You can limit innings and stressful workload without a hard cap, and I have faith that Girardi and the coaching staff will do just that.

Barring an injury (knock on wood), I don’t see Severino making it past 170 or so innings this season, and I think everyone involved will be happy if that’s the case. Hopefully, that leaves him fresh for the playoffs, where I truly feel all limits should be removed anyway.

What do you guys think? Should the Yankees coddle Severino a bit this season, or unleash him with no limitations?