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Luis Severino’s fastball is making all the difference in his resurgence

The Yankees got dominant Severino back just in time.

New York Yankees v. Texas Rangers Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The MLB postseason is on our doorstep, and the New York Yankees continue to get players off the injured list back into their lineup. One of the more significant additions has been one in the rotation with Luis Severino. It hasn’t been uncommon for his seasons to be riddled with injuries, and it’s unfortunate given the kind of talent that the 28-year-old possesses. But he seems to have rounded into shape at just the right time.

In his 16 appearances before going on the IL, Severino pitched well, posting a 3.45 ERA and a 4.03 FIP with some solid appearances, including a seven-inning game where he gave up only one hit and no runs. There were some shaky outings sprinkled in as well, but for the most part, Severino did the job.

However, since returning off the injured list, a switch has flipped. The sample is small, but the Sevy we are watching currently is peak form. His most recent performance—seven no-hit innings with seven strikeouts against the Texas Rangers—had fans feeling that we were watching a player that has the ability to start in game one of a playoff series. That’s not likely to happen with this rotation, but if the Yankees can add another starter playing at that level, it makes them that much more threatening in the postseason.

Since coming off the IL, Severino has posted a 1.69 ERA and 1.92 FIP in three games, striking out 17 and surrendering only three runs and five hits in 16.0 innings pitched. The right-hander has been dominant, to put it simply. But what is causing this drastic change in production and results? It all starts with his fastball.

Not only is Severino’s usage of the pitch higher than it was before he went on the IL, which could end up changing as the postseason rolls around. In his last three showings of the regular season, his fastball usage shot up from 54.8% to 62.8%. And not only did his usage shoot up, but so has his velocity. Before the IL stint, he was hurling the ball at an average of 95.2 mph. Now, he’s up to 97.2 mph on average, and he nearly sat at 98 mph during his most recent start in Texas. Two miles per hour can make a big difference in the kind of swing and miss effect there is on a game-to-game basis, so a jump like that will be huge for Severino in his look for consistent starts.

It’s hard to look at Severino’s live arm in these three starts and not connect it to the midseason rest Severino got over the summer. The Yankees placed Severino on the 60-day IL in mid-July, which did annoy the right-hander himself. He felt as though he could have returned sooner, and obviously wanted to be there to help his team as soon as possible.

But many underestimate the kind of effect rest can have on players. It doesn’t help that professional athletes are the most competitive people in the world, and that internal and external pressure can sometimes force organizations into putting players in positions where reaggravating injuries is likely. But much as Aaron Boone put the player’s health first in taking Severino out with a no-hitter on Monday, Boone and Brian Cashman appear to have made the right choice by letting Severino slowly heal and recover throughout the summer. The incredible zip Severino appears to have in his arm right now is pretty compelling proof that taking the time to get him right was a prudent decision.

If Severino carries this momentum, and his dominant heater, into the playoffs, the Yankees’ ceiling noticeably increases. They now have three players capable of pitching like an ace. When Severino’s healthy and confident, as he looks at the moment, it is an absolute blast to watch him blow pitches by helpless batters. The next time he plies his trade, he just might be pitching with a chance to advance the Yankees in the playoffs.