Yankees: Making the Case for Luis Severino, the Relief Pitcher

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

While it’s still too early for the Yankees to call Luis Severino a failed starter, perhaps his game lends itself to becoming a dominant relief pitcher instead.

When Severino pitches out of the bullpen for the Yankees, like he did on Wednesday night, he attacks each hitter head-on. He doesn’t dilly-dally on the mound, rather an intense focus washes over Severino that allows him to make the most out of his two big league pitches; an impressive 98 mph fastball, and an electric slider that darts out of the zone right as it enters the batters box.

Severino’s lack of an applicable changeup doesn’t mean a whole lot out of the ‘pen. As a starter, absolutely. He’ll never get by with just two pitches, especially on those nights when one or both of the options are flat and hittable.

Which is precisely why he’s struggled this season–pitching every fifth day.

In 43 innings as a starter, Sevvy holds an 8.58 ERA, has allowed 64 hits, 10 home runs, and 37 strikeouts, while the opposition slugs .596 against him.

In comparison, as a relief pitcher, he has yet to allow an earned run, while only giving up two hits, no homers, striking out 16, and a minuscule a .067 opposing SLG%.

While these numbers are evidence enough to consider a permanent move the bullpen for the 22-year-old, you can’t ignore what he did in 2015. But remember, that 5-3, 2.89 ERA came in only 11 games–62.1 innings, towards the backend of the season.

People will say, well the Yankees need starting pitching for 2017. My reply is, well they also need relief arms. Maybe even more so.

2016 is a prime example of the importance of great arms out of the bullpen. If the Yankees didn’t have some of the games best in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, there is no way they would have acquired two different club’s No. 1 prospects, among other valuable young assets.

Clearly, an onus has been put on pitchers with the ability to close out games. Teams are willing to overpay for them, so the Yankees should do themselves a huge favor this offseason; instead of dropping $50 or $60 million on the likes of Mark Melancon, or even Chapman for that matter, the Yankees could slide Severino into a setup role, and allocate funds via a trade or free agent, on–you guessed it, starting pitching. 

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While I’d welcome back Chapman with open arms, but let’s concern ourselves for the time being with guys that currently wear pinstripes.

With the way Severino has been pitching out of the ‘pen, he could solve any number of problems going forward; long-relief, stopper, setup man, or potentially even another closer.

Dellin Betances has either been really hot or really cold since taking over the ninth-inning role. Perhaps he’s better suited holding leads, minus the immense pressure of closing out contests. At the very least, another young option to finish off the opposition isn’t a bad problem to have.

As for right now, Severino’s teammates sense his comfortability and effectiveness out of the bullpen. “His mentality is a little bit different, Brian McCann said. “I feel like he attacks a little bit more, and obviously with the velocity sitting there at 98, 99.”

“It’s just electric,” Austin Romine said. “There’s no fear behind any pitch he throws. It doesn’t matter who’s hitting. He blew a couple of really good hitters away with heaters. It was something special.”

“He’s got a different edge out of the bullpen,” Mark Teixeira said. “I don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe he’s not holding anything back. He’s throwing 98 mph, and he’s being a little more aggressive. Whatever it is, I like it.”

Whatever happens over the course of the final 23 regular season games, I just hope that the Yankees make up their minds one way or the other regarding Servino’s long-term ability. Flipping him back and forth between the starting staff and the bullpen is one of the reasons Jobs Chamberlain is no longer in the majors.

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You cannot toy with a young pitcher’s arm, availability, and emotions. So whatever the capacity that Severino’s starts 2017 in, he needs to stay there–for good.