Who would have ever thought we would be here 365 days ago? At this time last year, the Yankees were watching Severino attempt to salvage any kind of value from his dreadful sophomore season by putting him in the bullpen, leaving his future as a starter somewhat in question.
In an extraordinary turnaround, Severino is now one of the best starters in the league with an ERA of 2.93 while averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Severino is in the top ten in the league in almost every major pitching category. He also is the ace of the Yankees’ staff who should be getting the ball if the Yankees find themselves in a must-win situation in the Wild Card game.
The lack of experience arguments will likely be heard as the postseason approaches, but Severino’s performance has outweighed any lack of experience. The 23-year-old has been on fire lately, boasting an ERA of 2.09 during the second half of the season, and nine of his last 12 starts have ended with Severino allowing one run or fewer. He has been flat-out nasty.
It looks like the Yankees would meet the Twins or the Angels in the Wild Card game should they make it. The Twins can run out a good number of lefties like Joe Mauer, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario against Severino, but so what. Severino has held lefties to a .214 batting average this season and has recorded 95 strikeouts in 81 innings against left-handed batters. The Wild Card game will hopefully be in the Bronx, where Severino’s strikeout percentage against lefties is 24.5%.
Severino’s overall strikeout percentage has been steadily climbing since May as his confidence continues to build. He is emerging as a true ace who can throw up zeroes against some of the game’s best pitchers, like he did against Chris Sale in the Yankees’ final regular season game against the Red Sox. The Yanks needed a win to take the series and keep their division hopes alive, and Severino responded by throwing six shutout innings while striking out nine and not allowing a walk.
In regards to the Angels, Severino hasn’t had too much experience against them, but he is even more lethal against righties than lefties, which will help out immensely against their right-handed power bats like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The Halos have only had 40 at-bats against Severino, but nobody on their roster has ever taken him deep.
Masahiro Tanaka has been better lately, but his issues with the home run ball make him a risky candidate for a one-game playoff. Sonny Gray is likely the only other starter in the rotation that can be considered for a Wild Card game, but Severino has come through for the Yankees in a huge way this year, and continues to get better with every start, just like he seems to get better with each passing inning when he’s on the mound. If the Yankees end the regular season with the first Wild Card spot, Severino should be named the starter, regardless of their opponent.