Yankees will not baby Luis Severino with innings limit, good call by Joe

Luis Severino (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Luis Severino (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Yankees have decided not to baby their 23-year old All-Star starting pitcher with a limit on his innings pitched this season. While the move carries some risk, it is yet another example of the team forging new ideas and methods in the way they handle their pitching staff.

The Yankees are breaking the major league chain when it comes to pitch counts and innings pitched with their youngest starter, Luis Severino, being turned loose from the corral with the freedom to roam as far and wide as he wishes.

Severino has pitched 185 innings in 2017 and is a cinch to reach the 200 mark, which is coveted by the best starting pitchers in the league. If the Yankees go deep into the playoffs, it is conceivable Severino could top the 230 inning mark.

The decision was made by committee, but it has Joe Girardi written all over it as a former catcher and a manager who studies every one of his pitchers intensely from the dugout. Girardi is by no means establishing a precedent, and his judgment is based solely on what he has recently observed with Severino.

Girardi looks for things like a drop in velocity or the break on a slider not being as sharp as it was a week ago. He also observes body language with traits like taking extra time between pitches, walking off the rubber a lot, shaking the catcher off more, and generally not looking comfortable, as factors in making judgments like this one.

With Severino, though, if anything, his velocity has gone up, as shown by a 101 mph fastball that got Chris Davis out swinging late in the game against Baltimore. His body language continues to be aggressive, and if anything, Severino might be urged to take an occasional breather between pitches.

Former Yankees pitcher and current analyst for the MLB Network, Al Leiter, explains the upside he sees in Severino in this video.

Yankees taking on the risk

Girardi hardly gets away entirely free, though. The first thing you are liable to hear from the naysayers if you heard it already, haven’t you (Joe) learned anything from the Washington Nationals and their mishandling of Stephen Strasburg in the early days of his career.

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And how about that team over in Citi Field, the one that burned out everyone on that staff of the future, all for the sake of a losing appearance in the 2015 World Series.

The big difference, though, is that Girardi is not pushing his whole staff as the Mets did. He’s singling out Severino because he feels he can handle the job.And he wisely leaves open the option of changing his mind at any point, if he sees his young hurler struggling with any of the trappings mentioned above.

Old-school comparisons

Growing up with the old school of baseball when pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn and the like regularly threw 300 innings a season with umpteen complete games, there is cause to wonder why pitchers of today barely make it to 200 innings with only a handful of complete games.

However, considering that someone like Koufax topped out in the neighborhood of $150,000 per year at the end of his career, while even a four or five starter today commands $10 million or more, it’s understandable why owners are more protective of their investments.

Still, it is refreshing to see the Yankees willing to take on the risk in this singular case. And I hope to catch John Smoltz on the MLB Network the night he is on, just to hear the exhilaration in his voice and the thoughts dancing in his head suggesting, that finally, someone is listening.

Smoltz, a long-time advocate for allowing pitchers to use those muscles more and not less, believing it’s the only way to build up the strength to, ultimately, avoid injury.

Severino appears to be born of that old-time mold, reminding in stature of a Luis Tiant or Don Drysdale, in being able to repeat their delivery sub-consciously, thereby reducing the chance for injury.

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And anyone who had the opportunity to watch Severino tear through those eight innings the other night, with an economy of pitches and without breaking a sweat, saw the same things Joe Girardi witnessed. Hence, the call by Girardi and the accolades from writers like myself for making the call.