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Luis Severino Player Profile for 2019

Luis Severino (NYY – SP) – 2EarlyMocks ADP 33.3; NFBC ADP 38.2

In the #2EarlyMocks, Luis Severino is going as the 7th SP off the board on average and as the eighth pitcher in NFBC drafts. If you remember, Severino had a disastrous second-half with a 5.57 ERA after the All-Star Break. Prior to that, he looked like a Cy Young contender with a 2.30 ERA in the first half. What happened? If you remember during the ALDS against the Red Sox, there were reports and evidence that Severino was tipping pitches. The real question then, if Severino was tipping pitches in the playoffs, was he also doing it during the second half? It’s certainly possible and it’s also possible that he wasn’t. If he was, some teams may or may not have been able to pick up on it. There simply isn’t enough evidence to support his second-half struggles on tipping pitches at this point. Seriously though, what happened then?

Before we dive in, let’s see just how good Severino was before the second half of 2018. From the start of the 2017 season through July 1st of 2018 here are Severino’s numbers and MLB ranks associated with those stats

311.2 IP (6th)
2.60 ERA (4th)
1.00 WHIP T-4th)
368 SO (5th)
.245 wOBA (3rd)

Wow, that’s fantastic! Now let’s get into velocity because that’s Sevy’s bread and butter. Severino throws gas, typically near 98 mph and has a very good slider to pair it with. The problem is that his third pitch is the changeup that he throws less than 15% of the time. In other words, Severino needs both the fastball and slider to be working at their peak to be dominant. Let’s check his velocities per game for each pitch in 2018.


I’ve heard a lot about Severino losing velocity, but in reality, it’s really just a few games where the velocity dips down but then comes right back up. To me, this is not a trend or a major concern. Where I have a little more concern is the velocity differential between the fastball and the changeup. You can see early in the season the velocity difference between the two pitches is at, or greater than, 10 miles-per-hour. At the end of the season, it’s closer to eight mph. That velocity differential renders the changeup less effective and hitters can sit fastball more often without being completely fooled by the changeup. Per Fangraphs, Severino’s changeup in 2018 had a pitch value of -1.9 whereas in 2017 it was valued 9.8 (0.0 being average based on results of the pitch). So, it was worse than the league average in 2018. The change induced fewer swings outside the zone, gave up fewer ground balls, and was hit for line drives over 30% of the time. It’s not a killer because it’s not one his primary pitches, but it helps offset the blazing fastball.

Here’s where things get really concerning. Per BrooksBaseball, the percentage of “grooved pitches” in the second half nearly doubled for Severino. The definition of a “grooved pitch” is pitches thrown in the middle-middle of the plate, regardless of movement or velocity. This makes me think that Severino was NOT tipping pitches in the second half, the reason he was getting hit so hard was due to the location of his pitches. A 97 mph fastball down the pipe is very different than a 97 mph fastball high and tight. This explains the elevated BABIP and home run rate for Severino. So, what’s the solution? How about stop throwing pitches right down the middle Sevy!

 

Easier said than done, obviously. My concerns going forward for Severino are not related to his fastball velocity. They are related to the location of his fastball and his velocity differential with his changeup. In other words, his changeup needs to be slower. Without an effective third pitch, Severino runs the risk of an elevated BABIP and that has implications that include prolonged innings and lower left-on-base rates. Think of Chris Archer, Luis Castillo, and Nick Pivetta. Now, Severino has had more success than all of these pitchers in the past, but I think the effective use of his changeup could right the ship for Severino. I can’t see ranking Severino inside the top 10 starting pitchers for 2019. For me, he might even be around 12 or 13, check my top 25 SP rankings. His strikeout rate is good but he does not have the strikeout upside of the top tier pitchers with only his slider getting punchouts followed by his fastball to a lesser extent.

For 2019, I’ll give Severino 15 Wins, 3.52 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 211 Strikeouts

Photo Courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

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