clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Yankees are using Severino in the perfect role right now

New, comments

Filling the Yankees’ middle relief void, Luis Severino is throwing multiple innings of high quality pitching

New York Mets v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Earlier in the season, the Yankees had a dominant back of the bullpen, consisting of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances. The Yankees chose to use the three relief aces in a very structured manner, pitching them almost exclusively in the seventh inning and on.

Now that the Yankees are making a run towards a playoff spot, they have swapped out Chapman and Miller for Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard. Some would have suspected a downturn in the bullpen’s performance but that hasn’t been the case. In the past 30 days, the Yankees’ bullpen is tied for first in fWAR with a 6.6. The real difference between the bullpen usage from earlier in the season to today is that the Yankees have a dominant middle reliever in Luis Severino.

It’s no secret that the Yankees middle relief has stunk this year. There has been a long parade of mediocre relievers such as Anthony Swarzak and Johnny Barbato. Earlier in the season, the Yankees could have tried to be more creative with their big relievers but instead chose to keep putting these mediocre options out there whenever the game was close and the starter had to be pulled.

On the other hand, this rigid approach to a bullpen might actually be benefiting the Yankees now. With Betances, Warren, and Clippard locked into the late innings, Girardi has been using Severino earlier in the game, where he’s been dominant and able to throw multiple innings because he has already been stretched out as a starter. Even more importantly, Severino has been absolutely lights out as a relief pitcher. In last night’s series-sweeping win, Severino had compiled these numbers BEFORE retiring the next three batters:

There is an interesting parallel for this usage too. Dellin Betances was a starter for the Yankees who struggled with control before eventually making it as a reliever. In his first season as a relief pitcher, the Yankees were slow to use him outside of early innings. Unknown to them at the time, they were using one of the best relief pitchers in the game as a fireman in the middle innings.

It’s hard to not see the similarity to how Severino is being used right now, and it would be very wise for the Yankees to continue to use him in this role. Warren and Clippard are good relief pitchers who should be pitching late in the game in a tie or with a small lead, but the team can benefit greatly by using a very good pitcher in the middle of a close game in order to keep the offense within reach.

The long term plan is for Severino to still be a starter, which is a good idea. Severino is one of the best pitching prospects to come through the Yankees system and is much more valuable as a starter than a reliever in the long run. However, as the Yankees chase an improbable playoff spot, it would be best to keep throwing him into the fifth and sixth inning whenever the game is close.

Hopefully they don’t try to turn him into a set-up man once they realize how good he really is. They would end up having to rely on inferior pitchers in important game situations, like what happened with Betances once they finally trusted him. It could end up being the difference between an improbable playoff team and a disappointing end to a fun little run.