The Yankees’ starting rotation is currently mowing through the American League East. Gerrit Cole is doing Gerrit Cole things, Nestor Cortes is the league’s top breakout story, at least as far as AL starters are concerned, Jameson Taillon is outperforming his spot in the rotation, and Jordan Montgomery quietly has one of the top 10 ERAs in the AL.
Before the 2022 campaign began, there was genuine concern that was not totally unfounded about the capability of this team’s rotation. You would’ve been hard-pressed to find someone vehemently stating that this staff would run the table in not only the AL, but all of baseball. (Side note: The inclusion of the DH in the National League makes it easier to do comparative analysis. One weight, one measure.)
The four names mentioned at the top combine for 80 percent of the Yankees’ rotation. The fifth name and perhaps the biggest question mark coming into the season is Luis Severino.
There’s little doubt about Severino’s abilities as a pitcher. Outside of Cole, he has more natural talent than any other Yankees starter. The shroud of mystery surrounding Sevy entering 2022 had to do with his ability to stay on the mound and pitch consistently. He hadn’t thrown more than 25 innings in a season since 2018, and in baseball years, that was a long time ago. The team had hoped to have Sevy back in mid-to-late 2021, but multiple setbacks prevented him from taking on more than an end-of-September relief role.
Halfway through the month of June, Severino has re-established himself as one of the premier arms in the AL East, and outside of a recent COVID scare, has stayed away from any injury headlines.
Severino in 2022:
11 starts - 51 IP - 2.80 ERA - 3.45 FIP - 1.03 WHIP - 29.9 K% - 6.1 K%
As fellow PSA writer John Griffin pointed out in Sevy’s season preview. ZiPS only had the Yankees pitcher down for 97 innings in 2022, and knowing his injury history and the absence from a starting role that extended through multiple seasons, it was hard to argue otherwise.
Pitchers don’t just come out of three-year-long absences and throw 160-180 innings. That’s not to say Severino will easily reach that mark, but the 28-year-old righty has averaged roughly 5.2 innings per start and is in line with the rest of the rotation. On June 4th, he even twirled his best start since June 2018 by throwing seven shutout innings of one-hit ball against the Tigers, striking out 10:
It remains to be seen how the Yankees will handle Severino’s workload through the second half. One could reasonably expect a very conservative approach, already looking ahead at a deep run in October and the need for a fresh Sevy at that point. They’ve done a good job so far of strategically spacing out his starts a smidge more than his fellow rotationmates.
Up to now, Severino has exceeded even the best of expectations. If he stays the course, he should surpass that projection of 97 innings sooner rather than later. Another six-to-seven starts or so at the current pace, and Severino should be hovering over the 100 mark.
Gerrit Cole was signed to be the team’s ace, and he’s done exactly that. A healthy Severino is a formidable partner in a one-two punch, and his presence and success take some of the pressure away from Montgomery, Cortes, and Taillon — all of whom have flourished so far in 2022.
At his highest point, Severino was an American League Cy Young Award finalist, and with this level of production after a prolonged time away from the mound, his only obstacle in eventually returning to those days is time.
Luis Severino in 2022 is easily one of the better mid-rotation starters in all of Major League Baseball. He’s gone above and beyond what even the most optimistic of fans expected from him following his return.