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Baseball should give Yankees ace Luis Severino the attention he deserves

Severino’s one of the best pitchers in the game.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’m going to start today with the results of an extremely informal poll, conducted during what politicians would call “kitchen table talk”. I’m fortunate enough to work in an office with a fair number of baseball fans, and I asked them to list the five or so best pitchers they can think of.

Now, this is not a scientifically sound poll by any means, but it got me thinking about a name that SHOULD be on this list. but isn’t. Luis Severino, for the last fourteen calendar months, has been better than most of the names in the quick poll above, and doesn’t seem to get the recognition he’s due.

How good has Sevy been? Consider this plot of the top 50 pitchers in MLB by fWAR since Opening Day 2017. Focus on where Severino sits in terms of his ERA and FIP:

That red dot is Severino. You can count on one hand the number of pitchers who have been better since last season, and yet he doesn’t seem to command the attention and imagination that others do.

Four of Severino’s direct contemporaries capture far more attention than he does, even though the difference between him and Chris Sale is negligible. He’s even been demonstratively better than Clayton Kershaw!

There is one stud pitcher who, like Severino, puts up ridiculous numbers without a lot of fanfare:

Corey Kluber and Sevy mirror each other, not just in performance but in attention paid by the general public. For Kluber, this is forgivable. He plays in Cleveland, far from the major media markets in New York, California or Chicago. He’s also not particularly demonstrative or emotional while he pitches; he’s earned his “Klubot” moniker and isn’t likely to be seen on any of the newest or most-shared GIFs on a given night.

Severino isn’t like that. Aside from being one of the absolute best pitchers in the game, he’s incredibly fun to watch, and should be everything today’s baseball fans want in a pitcher. He throws 100 mph, his slider has been known to hit left-handed batters on the foot after they’ve swung through the pitch, and he’s not one to bottle his emotions up.

He’s young, he’s passionate, he’s a hell of an athlete, and he’s the ace of the New York Yankees, the most recognizable sports brand this side of Barcelona. So why doesn’t Severino seem to capture people’s imagination the same way as the guys in the original poll, or Google Trends I posted above?

Some of it is longevity, to be sure. Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw have been so good for so long that everyone already knows them, while Severino is really only in his third full MLB season. Still, Noah Syndergaard hasn’t been in baseball that long, and he’s far more popular online.

The only time Sevy was consistently more popular than Thor was at the end of last season, when Severino was in the playoffs and Syndergaard was injured. Noah has a fantastic Twitter account, but that can’t be everything, can it?

It probably has to do with the language barrier as well. Spanish-speaking players are not usually going to be the easiest for a casual fan to follow along with, and it’s certainly more difficult for English-speakers to, say, follow a Spanish language Twitter account. Translations leave idioms or other jokes lost, and it’s inherently not as shareable.

The Yankees do a great job of promoting Severino, as they have with all their Baby Bombers. Yet here we are a quarter way through the season, with Sevy ranking in the top ten in baseball in strikeout rate, fWAR, ERA, FIP, and almost every other major statistical category. Yet most pitching coverage still flocks to what the Astros are doing, or Chris Sale’s latest start, or even Marcus Stroman’s shimmy delivery. It’s time baseball, and baseball fans, woke up and realized what a jewel they have every fifth day in the Bronx.