Poll: The Next Step with Luis Severino

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Last night, young right-hander Luis Severino made his fifth start of the season, and once again he was not good. He allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings and made a pair of carbon copy errors when he dropped a toss from Mark Teixeira because he was looking for first base rather than looking the ball into his glove. It was not a pretty night.

Through five starts Severino ranks 95th out of 101 qualified starters with a 6.31 ERA. His 4.44 FIP is better but still not good; it ranks 72nd out of those 101 pitchers. Also, his 13.8% strikeout rate ranks 94th. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Severino has been bad this season. You really have to squint your eyes for positives. (He has the tenth lowest walk rate at 4.3%, so yay?)

“If necessary,” said Brian Cashman to Chad Jennings yesterday afternoon when asked about the possibility of sending Severino to Triple-A. “If we feel that’s what has to take place, that’s definitely an avenue that’s open. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to that, but if that’s what’s in his best interest, and therefore our best interest, that’s something I have no problem doing.”

After another rough start, the talk about sending Severino to the minors is only going to continue. The Yankees have a ready made rotation replacement in Ivan Nova, or, if you prefer, they could call up either Luis Cessa or Chad Green from Triple-A Scranton since both have pitched well overall. When a young pitcher struggles, he gets sent back to the minors. That’s the way it’s always been.

A week ago I said it was a bit too early to send Severino to Triple-A. Now, after another rough outing, a strong case can be made on both sides. There’s an argument to be made for sending Severino down and an argument to be made for keeping him here. I’m not convinced there’s a right answer at the moment either. Let’s look at the two sides.

The Case For Keeping Severino Around

The rough start to this season can make it easy to forget just how dominant Severino was in the minors. From 2014-15 he had a 2.45 ERA (2.42 FIP) with a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate in 212.2 minor league innings. He climbed from Low-A to Triple-A in the span of about 14 months. Severino allowed more than three runs only three times in 43 starts from 2014-15. He allowed more than two runs only ten times. Dominant.

Severino has mastered the minors. He can go down to Triple-A and overwhelm hitters with his fastball alone, and that doesn’t accomplish much developmentally. Severino, like everyone else ever, needs to be challenged to continue his development, and it was not until he got to the big leagues that he was challenged consistently.

As best I can tell, most of Severino’s issues right now are location related. He’s missing his spots and not by an inch or two either. I refer you back to Mark Trumbo’s first home run last night:

Luis Severino Mark Trumbo1

Yeah, Brian McCann wanted it down and away, and Severino threw it up and in. That’s a mistake you can get away with in the minors when you throw 95+ like Severino. Big league hitters will make you pay for that pitch. Triple-A hitters often do not. That pitch shows up as a K in the minor league box score and that K leaves out all the important stuff.

The Yankees can force Severino to work on specific things in the minors — you need to throw this many down and away sliders per start, etc. — though they’ll never be able to replicate the MLB atmosphere. The intensity and the quality of the competition is totally different. Severino could go down, dot the corners with sliders for a month, then come back up and struggle again because it’s a much different game in the show.

Remember, Severino is only 22 years old. He’s a young 22 too. His birthday is in February, so he’ll spend the entire season at that age. He still has a lot to learn, and it seems Severino has learned all he can in the minors given the success he had. The next phase of his development is learning how to get big league hitters out, and that’s not something you can do in Triple-A.

The Case For Sending Severino Down

Let’s start with this: Severino is not pitching well and these games count, so the Yankees should swap him out for a more effective pitcher. That’s pretty simple, right? At the end of the day, results are the only thing that matters in MLB. It’s all about wins and losses, and the current version of Severino is not getting the results that help the Yankees win.

Beyond that, the Yankees can more easily target specific deficiencies in Severino’s game in the minors. They can have him throw X number of whatever per start in Triple-A regardless of situation because the final score doesn’t matter. Sending players to the minors is not about stats. The Yankees won’t send Severino down, watch him pitch to a 2.00 ERA for six weeks, then call him back up because the results are good. Nope. You send a player down to work on specific things, and once the necessary improvement is there, the player comes back up.

There’s also the confidence factor to consider. Severino is only human. He’s struggling, and when you’re a young player who is experiencing failure for the first time, it can be easy to get down on yourself. Imagine how Severino must of have felt last night after giving up two dingers and making those two errors. That has to be tough. An assignment to Triple-A gives him a chance to catch his breath and experience some success again.

* * *

Right now big league hitters are telling Severino he has to make adjustments to stick around, and the Yankees must decide whether they want him make those adjustments in the Bronx or in Scranton. We’re at the point now where having his conversation is not unwarranted. After one or two bad starts? Nah. Too soon to talk about it. But after five? Yeah, this is a thing now. What side of the argument are you on?

Should should the Yankees do with Severino?

Yankees lose sixth straight; drop opener 4-1 to Orioles

The losing streak has hit six. The Yankees have also lost 14 of their last 18 games. They skipped right over mediocrity and went straight from good to awful, apparently. The Yanks dropped Tuesday’s series opener 4-1 to the Orioles and once again looked bad at literally everything. Pitching, hitting, defense, base-running, you name it. They’re doing nothing right.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Two Errors, Two Dingers
I’d like to go back and rewatch this game because holy cow, Luis Severino missed the target on seemingly every pitch. He did bury a few sliders down in the zone in the first inning — elevating sliders has been a problem — but after that he was all over the place. Severino missed up in the zone at times and by the full width of the plate at others.

The first run Severino allowed — it came five pitches after the Yankees took a 1-0 in the top of the second — came on a long Mark Trumbo solo homer. Trumbo is known to mash dingers, so that’s going to happen, but look where Brian McCann wanted the pitch and where it ended up:

Luis Severino Mark Trumbo1

Not even close. McCann wanted it down and away and the pitch was up and in. The same thing happened on Trumbo’s second homer, a two-run shot that gave the O’s a 4-1 lead in the fifth. McCann wanted the pitch in one spot and Severino missed his location by no small margin:

Luis Severino Mark Trumbo2

Severino did not miss his spot as much as he missed on Trumbo’s first homer, but he still missed and put it in a hittable location. It seems like this has been a consistent problem for Severino this year. He’s missing the target and not by an inch or two. He’s not even in the same quadrant.

The Orioles scored a run between Trumbo homers and it was the result of Severino’s second error of the night. The two errors were identical: Mark Teixeira fielded a ground ball, flipped to Severino covering first, and he dropped the ball because he was looking down for the base before making the catch. He was able to wiggle out of trouble the first time, but not the second.

Ryan Flaherty hit the grounder to Teixeira with two outs in the fourth, and Jonathan Schoop chugged all the way around to score from second on Severino’s drop. Schoop just never stopped running. By time Severino picked up the ball and realized Schoop was heading home, it was too late to make a play at home. Flaherty’s grounder would have ended the inning and kept the game tied. Instead the O’s took a 2-1 lead.

(Teixeira put his arm around Severino and offers some words of encouragement following the second error. That was nice to see.)

Severino finished the night having allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out four. Four of those five hits were for extra-bases: Trumbo went deep twice and both Schoop and Manny Machado had doubles. I was encouraged by the sliders Severino was able to locate down in the zone early, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t all that good. The kid is sitting on a 6.31 ERA and a 4.44 FIP in 25.2 innings. Yuck.

I'm not sure what's going on here, exactly. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
I’m not sure what’s going on here, exactly. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Offense Disappears (Again)
So it turns out Sunday’s seven-run outburst was an aberration. The Yankees were held to one run Tuesday night even though they put eleven guys on base against Chris Tillman and various relievers. They had seven hits, but only one went for extra bases. That was Brett Gardner‘s first inning double. He was stranded, of course. They also drew four walks. Three were leadoff walks too.

The Yankees scored their only run despite their best RISPFAIL efforts. McCann drew a four-pitch walk to start the second, then Carlos Beltran followed with a single. Starlin Castro banged into a double play, his fourth of the season, which threw a wrench into the rally. Didi Gregorius salvaged things with a two-out, two-strike single up the middle after Tillman threw him three straight curveballs.

Believe it or not, the Yankees went down 1-2-3 only once in this game. That happened in the seventh inning, when Tillman ended his night by striking out the side. He fanned six of the final 13 batters he faced. The Yankees put the leadoff man on base four times and didn’t even advance the runner two of the four times. That is: bad. This team isn’t doing anything right at the moment.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Leftovers
In case you missed it earlier, Alex Rodriguez left the game with a right hamstring injury. He hurt himself running out a fifth inning ground out. A-Rod is going for an MRI tomorrow. We’ll see what it says. If nothing else, an A-Rod injury would presumably open the door for a young player like Aaron Hicks to get more playing time.

McCann (single, two walks), Gardner (double, walk), and Beltran (two singles) all reached base twice. Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, and pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley each had a single. Teixeira drew a walk as well. Chase Headley took another 0-for-4. They can’t keep running him out there. Give him a few days on the bench, at least.

Kirby Yates and Johnny Barbato came out of the bullpen and retired all six men they faced. Barbato fanned two in his perfect inning. Yay? Barbato’s been struggling of late, so it was good to see him come in and blow some hitters away. He’s looked a little rough over the last week or so.

And finally, the six-game losing streak is the longest since a six-gamer last May, which I completely forgot about. Prior to that the Yankees had not lost six straight games since 2011, when they had both a six-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak in the same season.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, because they’re there and they exist. Here is the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The three-game series continues Wednesday night at Camden Yards. CC Sabathia and young right-hander Tyler Wilson is the scheduled pitching matchup.

A-Rod going for MRI on injured right hamstring tomorrow

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Following tonight’s loss, Joe Girardi confirmed Alex Rodriguez has a right hamstring injury and will go for an MRI tomorrow. A-Rod pulled up lame running out a ground ball in the fifth inning, then was replaced by pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley in the eighth. Here’s the video.

A-Rod went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the game before being lifted. He went into Tuesday’s game on a 7-for-16 (.438) hot streak, and three of those seven hits were homers. Rodriguez missed a few games with a sore oblique last week after tweaking something in the batting cage.

If the injury is a day-to-day thing — and I hope it is — my guess is Aaron Hicks will take over in right field with Carlos Beltran sliding over to DH. If it’s a long-term injury, well, that’s a much bigger problem. I wonder if we’ll see Nick Swisher in that case. Hopefully this is nothing.

DotF: Refsnyder plays right; Sanchez, Mateo, and Andujar all go deep

Both RHP Domingo Acevedo and LHP Josh Rogers were mentioned in this week’s edition of Baseball America’s The List for their big strikeout-to-walk ratios. It’s not behind the paywall, so make sure you check it out.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-5, 1 RBI
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — 14-for-48 (.250) in his last 12 games, but nine of those 14 hits have gone for extra bases (six doubles, a triple, two homers)
  • DH Nick Swisher: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — first start in the outfield since 2014
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7/4 GB/FB — 56 of 85 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • LHP Tyler Olson: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 25 of 39 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]

Game 24: Losing Sucks, How About A Win?

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The Yankees are back in action tonight with the first of three games against the Orioles. This is also the start of a 20 games in 20 days stretch, and given the way the Yanks have played of late, this is already a make or break stretch. Thirteen wins in those 20 games seems like the bare minimum to me. Anything less than that likely means they won’t gain any ground in the standings.

On the mound tonight is young righty Luis Severino, who so far this season has been part of the problem, not the solution. He allowed 32 hits and 15 runs in 19.2 innings, which is about as bad as it gets. Jared Diamond says the Yankees are trying to slow Severino down in more ways than one. They’ve noticed he’s rushing his delivery, and they also want him to take a little more time between pitches to collect himself. We’ll see if he does that tonight. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Luis Severino

The weather isn’t too great in Baltimore and won’t be the rest of the series either. It’s cloudy and there are on and off showers in the forecast. It doesn’t look like anything that will significant delay or postpone the game, however. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Chapman Update: Aroldis Chapman, who is eligible to rejoin the Yankees next Monday, will make tune-up appearances in Extended Spring Training tomorrow and Friday. “The outing (tomorrow) will be one-inning-plus and maybe two,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild to George King.

2016 Draft: Forrest Whitley

Forrest Whitley | RHP

Background
The 18-year-old Whitley attends Alamo Heights High School in Texas, where he threw a 13-strikeout no-hitter last month. He missed about a month earlier this spring with a thumb injury that has given him no problems since returning. Whitley is committed to Florida State and there was some initial thought he wanted a huge bonus to turn pro, though that is no longer the case.

Scouting Report
Whitley went through a big growth sport as a sophomore and is now a massive human at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds. He’s been as heavy as 250 lbs. at times but has done a better job with his conditioning lately. Whitley’s fastball sits mostly in the low-90s and it has touched as high as 97 mph during shorter outings. His top secondary pitch is a hard curveball around 80 mph. He also throws a low-80s changeup. Whitley is a good athlete, but, like most young pitchers this size, he battles his mechanics and struggles to repeat his delivery. He’s also maxed out physically. There’s no projection here.

Miscellany
MLB.com, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and Baseball America respectively ranked Whitley as the 13th, 16th, and 28th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their latest rankings. The Yankees hold the 18th pick. Whitley has all the unteachables. He has the size, the big fastball, the power curveball, and he even has a changeup. What he lacks is general refinement. Getting a pitcher this big to keep his long limbs in check is not easy. That has never stopped the Yankees from trying though.

5/3 to 5/5 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

The Yankees begin a stretch of 20 games in 20 days tonight, with the first of three against the Orioles in Baltimore. For my money, Camden Yards is the best ballpark in the AL East. It’s spectacular. Anyway, this is the first meeting of the season between the Yanks and O’s, weirdly. The Yankees had an AL West heavy schedule in April for whatever reason.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s won their first seven games of the season, and they won six of those seven games by no more than two runs. They’ve come back to Earth since the 7-0 start though. Baltimore is 7-10 since then, so they’re 14-10 overall with a +16 run differential overall. The O’s split a four-game series with the White Sox over the weekend. They won the first two games then lost the last two.

Offense & Defense

Manager Buck Showalter’s team is living up to preseason projections. They’re averaging 4.54 runs per game with a team 119 wRC+, and they lead the AL in home runs (34). Baltimore is only seventh in the league in strikeout rate (21.9%), however. I expected that number to be higher. The O’s are currently without UTIL Jimmy Paredes (wrist) and SS J.J. Hardy (foot). Paredes is on a minor league rehab assignment and is not expected back this series. Hardy fouled a pitch off his foot over the weekend and suffered a hairline fracture. He’ll miss 6-8 weeks. Ouch.

Machado. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)
Machado. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)

Showalter’s lineup is headlined by 3B Manny Machado (199 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the game’s truly elite players. In fact, I consider him the third best all-around player in baseball right now, behind only Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. (Nolan Arenado is in that mix too.) 1B Chris Davis (137 wRC+) is still a dinger mashing machine and OF Mark Trumbo (163 wRC+) has had a wonderful BABIP-fueled start to 2016 (.410 BABIP). OF Adam Jones (77 wRC+), who I don’t think gets nearly enough respect for being a very good hitter because of his low OBPs, is off to a slugging start.

2B Jonathan Schoop (81 wRC+) has been below league average overall but has a history of crushing the Yankees. The C Matt Wieters (66 wRC+) and C Caleb Joseph (54 wRC+) tandem hasn’t done much at the plate. Wieters had Tommy John surgery two years ago and the O’s have allowed him to catch back-to-back games just once this year after he experienced some soreness in Spring Training. Tommy John surgery: it’s not really that routine!

DH Pedro Alvarez (87 wRC+) hasn’t gotten going yet, and Rule 5 Draft pick OF Joey Rickard (92 wRC+) is in the middle of crashing back to Earth. OF Nolan Reimold (199 wRC+) and OF Hyun-Soo Kim (288 wRC+) have been great in limited time. (They’ve combined for 54 plate appearances.) Kim has started only four of the team’s 24 games and he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in two of those four starts. He came over from Korea and went straight into Showalter’s dog house, it seems. Also, the Orioles will have to call someone up to replace Hardy. UTIL Ryan Flaherty seems likely.

Defensively, the O’s have an outstanding infield when Hardy is healthy and everyone is at their normal positions. There’s some talk they will play Machado at shortstop — his natural position — and Alvarez at third base (!) while Hardy is out. Alvarez is a total disaster in the field. Jones, Rickard, and Reimold are sound outfield defenders. Trumbo’s really bad and I haven’t seen enough of Kim to have an opinion about his defense. General rule of thumb: hit it to Trumbo and Alvarez.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
It’s hard to believe Tillman has now pitched in parts of eight (!) different big league seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 3.24 ERA (2.75 FIP) in five starts and 25 innings in the early going, and right now he’s running a career-high strikeout rate (24.2%). His walk (8.1%) and grounder (36.4%) rates are right in line with his career norms, though his homer rate (0.36 HR/9) is far below anything he’s ever done before. Tillman’s always been long ball prone (career 1.19 HR/9). Lefties have hit him hard this year, though for most of his career, his platoon split has been tiny. Tillman’s velocity is up noticeably so far this season (via Brooks Baseball) …

Chris Britton velocity… and he’s been sitting more 92-95 mph than 90-92 mph. That’s a big difference. He throws both a four-seamer and sinker, plus a little upper-80s cutter. His go-to secondary pitch is a big breaking upper-70s curveball. Tillman will also throw a mid-80s changeup. The sinker is a fairly new pitch for him — he didn’t start throwing it regularly until last June — but it hasn’t helped his ground rate a whole lot.

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
It seems like the O’s entire rotation is one big TBA behind Tillman. Ubaldo Jimenez started Sunday, we so definitely won’t see him this series. Right-hander Tyler Wilson lines up to start this game, though the O’s could also go with fellow righty Mike Wright. Wilson, 26, has a 3.06 ERA (4.20 FIP) in 17.2 innings across two starts and three relief appearances this year. He hasn’t struck anyone out (12.3%), but his walk rate is good (4.1%) and he’s getting a league average-ish number of grounders (46.7%). Wilson works in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sits in the low-80s with both his slider and changeup. Pretty generic arsenal.

Wright, 26, has a 5.40 ERA (4.35 FIP) in four starts and 23.1 innings in the early going. His peripheral stats are kind of blah: 18.6 K%, 6.2 BB%, 42.6 GB%, and 1.16 HR/9. Wright will sit right around 95 mph with his fastball, and he backs it up with a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup. He’ll also flip a few upper-70s curves per start. Wright has the better stuff, Wilson the better 2016 results. If the O’s keep their rotation on turn, Wilson lines up to start tomorrow night’s game. Yesterday’s off-day gives them the option of starting Wright instead.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
The Orioles have two options for Thursday’s start: either Wilson or Wright, whichever one doesn’t start Wednesday, or righty Kevin Gausman. Gausman’s regular turn is Friday, but yesterday’s off-day means the team can bump him up a day if they choose. The 25-year-old Gausman started the season on the DL with a shoulder problem and he’s made two starts since being activated: 11 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K. He’s gotten exactly 50% grounders too. That works out to a 2.45 ERA (3.52 FIP). For what it’s worth, Gausman had a 4.50 ERA (4.06 FIP) with good strikeout (21.5%) and walk (5.7%) numbers in 100.1 innings as a starter last season. Gausman throws very hard — he’s averaged 97.1 mph with his four-seamer through two starts — and he also throws a low-80s curveball and mid-80s splitter/changeup hybrid. He used to have a hard mid-80s slider, but over the last year he’s scrapped it entirely in favor of the curveball.

Update: Wilson will start Wednesday and Gausman will start Thursday, per Roch Kubatko.

Ouch. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Ouch. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Bullpen Status

The O’s lost closer LHP Zach Britton to an ankle injury over the weekend when he slipped fielding a bunt. He was in a walking boot and on crutches Sunday, but apparently he is considered day-to-day and will not be placed on the DL. Okie dokie. Either way, sounds like he’s a no go for this series. Setup man extraordinaire RHP Darren O’Day will close in the meantime. Here is Showalter’s relief crew:

RHP Brad Brach: 14.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 1 HR
LHP Zach Britton: 10 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 1 HR
RHP Dylan Bundy: 9 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 0 HR
RHP Mychal Givens: 12 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 21 K, 1 HR
LHP Brian Matusz: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 0 HR
LHP T.J. McFarland: 12.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 HR
RHP Darren O’Day: 9.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 1 HR
RHP Vance Worley: 17.2 IP, 17 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 6 BB, 19 K, 2 HR

Poor Dylan Bundy. I thought that kid was going to be a megastar back in the day. Then he got sucked in the Orioles pitching prospect vortex of doom. The Orioles have needed 84.2 innings from their bullpen this season, third most in the AL, mostly because their rotation has been so hit or miss.

Like the Yankees, the O’s had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is fresh as it is going to get. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen. It’s in not bad shape, all things considered.