After a trying 2016 season, Luis Severino sought the help of an unlikely ally. According to Brendan Kuty at NJ.com, Severino worked with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, after posting a 5.83 ERA in 71 innings at the big league level. Severino went into a lot of detail about his offseason workouts, so let’s take a closer look at what Pedro might have taught him.
According to the NJ.com article, Pedro worked with Severino on his mechanics, with a specific focus on his release point. Before looking at his release point, it bears noting that when it comes to pitching mechanics, Pedro knows his stuff. After his July 15 start against the Orioles, Rays’ ace Chris Archer had a 4.68 ERA in 20 starts, lasting fewer than six innings per outing. On July 19th, this video was uploaded to the MLB Network’s YouTube channel:
The abridged version of the video is that Pedro didn’t think Archer was hiding the ball as well as he could have been. While it is far from guaranteed that Archer took note of what Pedro said, he had a 3.11 ERA in 13 starts after the video, logging 84 innings in the process.
Getting back to Severino, the Yankees’ righty cited an inconsistent release point as a source of trouble. Talking to NJ.com, Severino indicated that his changeup’s release point was lower than that of his fastball. A scatter plot from Baseball Savant seems to indicate that he is on to something:
When he was a minor league prospect, Severino’s changeup was considered to be his best secondary pitch. However, he threw it just under 9% of the time in 2016. For reference, legendary closer Mariano Rivera found that he had to learn to mix in the occasional fastball as he got older, since left handed hitters would be ready for his cutter. The man who is known for throwing only one pitch threw his four seam fastball more often than Severino threw his changeup in 2016, according to Pitch F/X.
Furthermore, Severino’s changeup also had less horizontal and vertical movement in 2016 than it did a year earlier. While hitters didn’t necessarily crush his changeup in 2016 (they had a .620 OPS against it), they made more contact against Sevy’s offspeed pitch and chased it less than they did in 2015.
Severino stated that his changeup is looking a lot better in bullpen sessions than it did last year. He also said his fastball location has improved, which will go a long way for him. In 2016, hitters had a .299/.383/.544 slash line against his fastball, a pitch he threw 55% of the time. A .927 OPS against his most commonly used pitch will not cut it, so it is important that he improves his fastball command in 2017.
Finally, Severino mentioned that he has lost some weight and improved his flexibility, although that was a change requested by the Yankees, not by Pedro Martinez. It should be noted, however, that a large part of Pedro’s allure as a pitcher was that he was never the biggest guy on the hill.
If there is one thing Severino would ideally learn from Pedro, it is the ability to change speeds. Pitch F/X had his average fastball clocked at 96 mph, with his slowest secondary pitch being his 88 mph changeup. In his heyday, Pedro could follow a perfectly spotted 97 mph fastball with a low 80’s changeup that featured both sink and fade, in addition to a mid 70’s curveball. Severino doesn’t have anywhere near as wide of a velocity range, but working with one of the most dominant pitchers of all time can’t hurt.
Data is courtesy of FanGraphs.