The New York Yankees are currently tied with the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East and are in fact playing Boston in a three-game series that continues tonight. As of late, the Yankees have been outstanding and performed at a level that we haven't seen in a little over two decades. The Yankees 7-game win streak, that they're currently in, as well as their +63 run differential is proof of exactly how powerful of a team they are. In addition, you have to give a ton of credit to rookie manager, Aaron Boone, and his entire coaching staff for the leadership that they have provided to get the team to perform at the elite level that they have.
While things weren't perfect in the pitching department for the Yankees at the start of the season, their entire pitching staff has turned the corner and of course, the offense has always been there. As of today, the Yankees currently have the second best pitching staff in the bigs, behind only the Houston Astros, with a 3.39 ERA over the span of 319.0 IP. Furthermore, over that span, the Yankees rank second behind the Astros in strikeouts (369) and second in Opponent Batting Average Against (.218).
Mixed in within all of that greatness is one guy, Luis Severino, who probably doesn't get nearly enough credit as he should on a national level. When you are watching MLB Network, Fox Sports, or even ESPN, you will hear about the Yankees, quite a bit in fact, but you hardly hear about individuals like Luis Severino, who currently leads the Yankees in ERA (2.21 over 53.0 IP) and strikeouts (63). Beyond that, Severino also has a Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) of 2.76 and a left on-base percentage of 76.9% so far this season.
Luis Severino, who turned 24 this past February, is only starting to hit his peak and it's scary to think of what he can become as he continues to mature as a starting pitcher. Just look at last night's start against the division rival, Red Sox, for indication. Last night, Severino recorded 11 strikeouts over the span of 6 innings and had zero walks the entire night. That indicates that not only did Severino do a tremendous job of working in the zone, he also has the pitch repertoire to get hitters to swing and miss when needed the most. Simply put, every pitch he throws is full of pure deception and that's exactly what any team, especially the Yankees, need.
Given that the Yankees play in the American League, which tends to be very offensive heavy, it is essential to have a starting pitcher who can go out there every fifth day, record a bunch of strikeouts, and get hitters to strike out. With the deception that he gives hitters, Severino is able to put the opposing team's hitters away, without nibbling around the strike zone, which ends up turning into a walk most of the time, for the average starter.
Another important note and something that is really fascinating is that Severino has an Opponent Batting Average Against of .207, when there is no shift, along with a Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) of .206 over 21.2 IP, that have included those type of situations. Basically that means that Severino is doing a lot of the work himself without the help of the defense even in those critical moments during a game. Over 8.2 IP when the shift is applied, Severino has an Opponent Batting Average Against of .357 as well as 15 hits, 3 doubles, and 2 triples during those situations.
In addition, here is a chart that helps to illustrate how great Luis Severino is when the base are empty compared to when there are runners in scoring position and men on base.
As is the case with every pitcher, no one is perfect and that is exactly the case for Luis Severino depending on what time through the batting order he is on, as indicated by the chart below:
However, don't let that take away from any of the greatness that Luis Severino brings to the mound every fifth day or the tremendous ceiling that he has as he continues to mature in age moving forward.
In terms of pitch selection, Severino is throwing his fastball less often this season compared to last (51.3% of the time last year compared to 48.0% of the time this season) and his slider more often (38.6% of the time this season compared to 35.1% of the time last year). In addition, Severino continues to rely on his changeup, but is throwing it virtually the same amount of time (13.5% last season compared to 13.3% of the time this year).
Expanding the sample size back to 2015 and looking at things from a league wide perspective, Luis Severino 27th in ERA (3.59), 18th in FIP (3.47), 13th in strikeouts-per-9 (9.85), and is tied 23rd in groundball percentage (49.4%), with Noan Syndergaard of the New York Mets, over that span. Furthermore, Severino ranks 12th with a strikeout-to-walk percentage of 19.8% and is 12th in WHIP (1.14) since the start of the 2015 regular season.
Simply put, from everything in this analysis and even based on the eye test, Luis Severino is one of the best starting pitchers in the game and is quickly becoming part of that elite class in the American League as well as all of baseball. Not only is he a strikeout machine, he is a tremendous asset for the New York Yankees, for the foreseeable future, and will only get better given, that he has yet to reach his full peak, at 24 years old.