Starter or reliever? It doesn’t matter, it’s just good to see Severino have success again


Last night, for the first time this season, we got to see the dominant version of Luis Severino. I’m talking about the guy who tore through the league last season, not the guy who got hammered in seven starts earlier this season. Severino came out of the bullpen and held the Mets to one run on one hit and one walk in 4.1 innings, striking out five.

The seventh inning was standout moment for Severino. The Yankees were nursing a three-run lead and the Mets managed to load the bases with no outs on a walk, a bunt single, and an error. It was a dumb rally, but Severino was letting dumb rallies like that get out of hand earlier this season. Last night he was able to bear down and escape the jam while keeping the damage to a minimum (one run).

“Today was the best I’ve seen him,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings after last night’s game. “We were really pleased with what we saw, and (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) actually worked with him before the game on it a little bit. He did an outstanding job. His slider – as we’ve obviously talked about – has been better, but I thought his fastball command was better, and he even threw a few changeups. Obviously I think that can get better too. But tonight, what I’ve seen, was the best I’ve seen him.”

Last night’s appearance was Severino’s third since coming off the DL, all of which have been in relief. He’s allowed one run on one hit and three walks in 8.1 total innings while striking out ten. That’s really good, but it’s 8.1 innings, so we can’t get too excited. Still, when Severino dominates like that last night and Chad Green can’t complete four innings, it’s easy to understand why folks want Luis back in the rotation.

As far as I’m concerned, Severino’s role doesn’t really matter right now. As long as he pitches multiple innings and gets to experience some success after his dreadful start to the season, I couldn’t care less whether he was starting or relieving. It’s not like the Yankees are in the thick of a playoff race, you know? There are a few things I consider more important than Severino’s role.

1. He’s keeping his slider down. The single biggest problem with Severino earlier this season was his command of his offspeed pitches, or lack there of. Especially with his slider. He threw way too many cement mixers that spun up in the zone and caught too much of the plate. The Yankees optioned Severino to Triple-A a few weeks ago specifically to work on this, and, well, look at his slider locations last night, via Brooks Baseball:

Luis Severino pitches

Almost all the red dots are down in the zone, exactly where you want the slider. If it’s too far down in the zone and the hitter takes it for a ball, that’s okay! That’s better than leaving it up and watching it go for extra bases. There are good misses and there are bad misses. Missing in the dirt is better than missing in the zone. Severino’s slider location has been better in general since being called up a week or two ago. Last night it was outstanding. Best it’s been all season.

2. He’s still using his changeup. This is an important one to me, and you know what? It’s not happening. Severino threw one changeup out of 60 pitches last night. One. He’s thrown two changeups total out of 112 total pitches in his three relief appearances since coming back up. Severino hasn’t thrown the changeup in relief because he hasn’t needed it. That’s true of most relievers.

Earlier this season Severino averaged about 14.6% changeups as a starter — it was 14.6% last year as well — and I’d like to see him get back to that rate now. That changeup is an important pitch. Severino needs a third pitch to have success long-term as a starter and right now he’s dominating as a fastball/slider guy out of the bullpen. You don’t want the development of his changeup to stall out. That would be bad. Luis is still developing as a young pitcher and he needs to throw that changeup to build a reliable third pitch.

3. He’s turning the lineup over multiple times. This is difficult to do in relief but Severino was able to do it last night. He faced 16 batters yesterday, so seven Mets got to see him twice. That’s pretty important. It’s relatively easy to air it out and empty the bag of tricks when you know you’re only going to face a hitter once. Going through a lineup two or three times is a different animal, and if Severino’s going to hack it as a starter, he has to learn to do that. (That also plays a role in the development of his changeup.)

4. He’s building confidence. These days we can track slider location and changeup usage rates and all that stuff. There’s no real way to measure confidence though, and it’s pretty important. Severino got hit around very hard earlier this season. A 7.46 ERA with a .327/.373/.547 opponent’s batting line is terrible, and that’s what Severino did for seven starts to open 2016. That’s brutal.


Luis is only human and I have a hard time thinking his confidence didn’t suffer when he was taking a pounding every fifth day back in April and May. How could it not? Last night Severino looked very confident and it was evident during that seventh inning jam. He attacked hitters with the bases loaded — Jay Bruce, James Loney, and Michael Conforto saw nine total pitches with the bases loaded, and eight were strikes — and challenged them with fastballs. It was no nonsense pitching.

“He looked like he had his confidence back. He looked like he had his swag back,” said Austin Romine after the game. Severino did indeed look more confidence last night than he did earlier this season and that’s great. He needs to build back some confidence and I’m guessing the stint in Triple-A helped. Being a Major League Baseball player is hard enough as it is. Imagine trying to do it when your confidence is shot.

I thought it was smart by the Yankees to bring Severino back as a reliever just because it’s a little easier to have success in that role even though he’d never really done it before. Things went so poorly earlier this season that Severino just needed to experience some level of success in MLB in any role just to remind himself that yes, I can do this. We can see the confidence growing with each outing.

* * *

It’s very easy to make too much out of one game and I’m guessing there will be plenty of calls to put Severino in the rotation after last night. I get it. I do. But like I said before, I honestly don’t care whether Severino starts or relieves in the short-term. (Yes, he should definitely start long-term.) As long as his slider location improves, he continues to use his changeup, and he gets a chance to turn a lineup over once or twice, then the Yankees are putting Severino in position to further his development, and that’s the most important thing.

Offense, Severino pick up Green in a 9-5 win over the Mets

It doesn’t matter where the two teams are in the standings. Watching the Yankees beat the Mets never gets old. The Yankees won Wednesday night’s game 9-5 and we all had a good laugh along the way. Good game. Would watch again.


It’s Not Easy Being Green
Boy, that could have been much, much worse for Chad Green. Don’t get me wrong, three runs and 12 baserunners (!) in 3.2 innings is no good, but the Mets had him on the ropes a few times and failed to take advantage. Three ground ball double plays will do that. The Yankees had the bullpen working in every inning Green pitched. Heck, there was a reliever warming before he even got an out. He was that shaky.

The game started with a leadoff home run by Curtis Granderson, who knows a thing or two about going deep in this ballpark. That is the third leadoff homer the Yankees have allowed in the last nine games. Annoying! A string of singles followed to create another run — to be fair, none of them were hard-hit — before Green got the inning-ending double play. A defensive misplay by Mark Teixeira and another single create the Mets’ third run of the game in the second inning.

Green faced 20 batters and 13 saw at least four pitches. Seven saw a three-ball count. There were an awful lot of long counts and foul balls — Green got six swings and misses and allowed 18 fouls out of 86 total pitches — because Green simply had nothing to put hitters away. They were on his fastball and his offspeed stuff was finishing too far out of the zone. Not a good start by any stretch.


Pick Up The Pitcher
The top of the first inning was mighty ugly — the Mets scored two runs and put five men on base total — and yet the Yankees were able to take the lead in the bottom half. Chase Headley drove in Rob Refsnyder (single) and Mark Teixeira (walk) with a booming double into the left-center field gap, then Didi Gregorius cashed in the third run with a two-run double. So, after all of that, the Yankees led 3-2 after the first.

The Mets knotted the game back up in the next half inning, but the Yankees responded by taking the lead for good in the bottom of the second. It all happened with two outs too. Jacoby Ellsbury and Refsnyder slapped two-out singles, then Teixeira drove a not terribly located 1-0 fastball …

Mark Teixeira Steven Matz

… into the right-center field seats for a three-run home run. Was a cheap Yankee Stadium homer? Yes. Yes it was. It still counts. It’s not like Granderson’s leadoff dinger landed in the second deck. That was a wall-scraper too. Anyway, the opposite field homer gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead. Amazing they had a three-run lead considering a) the general terrible-ness of the offense this season, and b) Green’s ineffectiveness.

Shutdown Sevy
Since resurfacing a week or two ago, Luis Severino has look pretty good while pitching in mostly low-leverage relief innings. The Yankees have been taking it easy on him. Severino came out of the bullpen to replace Green and retired the first seven men he faced to take the ball into the seventh inning. That’s when things started to unravel.

That seventh inning started with a leadoff walk, then Neil Walker laid down a bunt single and Headley booted a potential double play ball. Just like that, the bases were loaded with no outs and the Yankees still nursing that 6-3 lead. The Mets had their 4-5-6 hitters coming up too. It was a certifiable mess, and yet Joe Girardi stuck with Severino. No one was warming in the bullpen.

Rather than implode, which happened far too often when Severino was in a jam earlier this season, he was able to bear down and escape while allowing just one run. He struck out Jay Bruce on three pitches, got Yankee Killer James Loney to ground out to first (run scored to make it 6-4), then struck out Michael Conforto to escape the inning. Severino went full Joba with his fist pump:

Luis Severino

That was some serious F.U. pitching by Severino. He was throwing with conviction and went right after hitters with the bases loaded; Bruce, Loney, and Conforto saw nine total pitches, only one of which was a ball. That was easily his best inning of the season. Severino was letting those innings spiral out of control earlier this year when he was still in the rotation. On Wednesday, he kicked it into another gear and got out of the jam. That was impressive.

Broken Open Late
Immediately after Severino escaped that jam, the offense put three more runs on the board. Refsnyder had a sac fly, Starlin Castro beat out an infield single to score a run, and Gregorius drew a bases loaded walk. Hansel Robles chirped at Teixeira that inning because he thought he was stealing signs from second base. It was pretty funny. Robles was clearly distracted and Teixeira was just laughing at him the whole time. The three runs gave the Yankees a 9-4 lead.

Severino chucked a scoreless eighth inning to finish the night with one run allowed in 4.1 innings. He allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five. Severino threw 60 pitches and got nine swings and misses, which is pretty excellent. This was by far the best he’s looked all season. Tyler Clippard followed Severino and allowed a garbage time solo homer in an otherwise uneventful ninth inning.


The benches cleared in the fifth inning. Steven Matz drilled Teixeira with a pitch in the leg and Mark didn’t like that. He thought it was intentional after the home run in the third inning. There were no punches thrown or anything like that, but Teixeira had to be restrained and the dugouts did empty out on to the field. He got his payback when he slid in hard at second on Headley’s double play ball.

The Yankees had nine hits total. Refsnyder had two, Austin Romine had none, and the other seven starters had one each. The Yankees also drew four walks total. Teixeira had two of them. He reached base four times (homer, hit-by-pitch, two walks). The Yankees went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Mets? They went 2-for-12 in those spots. Difference in the game right there.

And finally, congrats to Gary Sanchez. He picked up his first big league hit in the seventh inning on a solid ground ball single back up the middle. Sanchez went first-to-third on Aaron Hicks‘ double, then scored his first big league run on Refsnyder’s sac fly. Here’s to many more of those, Gary.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, I suggest going to ESPN. is the place to go for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings you may or may not find interesting. Here’s the graph of win probability, which is based on thousands and thousands of games worth of historical data:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The four-game home-and-home Subway Series is finally coming to an end. The Yankees and Mets wrap things up Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Nathan Eovaldi and Bartolo Colon are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other three games remaining on the homestand.

DotF: Higashioka goes deep in Scranton’s win

Got some notes to pass along:

  • Josh Norris (no subs. req’d) has a really good article on C Donny Sands’ conversion to catcher. Turns out Sands is not catching much in GCL games because he has regular 5am workouts with the team’s catching instructors. “The first time I threw out a guy — we had worked out at five in the morning on footwork, footwork, footwork — and the first time, it just clicked. That’s when I started feeling like, ‘This is starting to pay off,'” he said. Pretty cool.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield was officially added to the High-A Tampa roster following today’s game, the team announced. I’m guessing that means he’s going to make his first start tomorrow. Sheffield was part of the Andrew Miller trade this past weekend.
  • In case you missed it earlier, LHP Jacob Lindgren will have Tommy John surgery on Friday, so we probably won’t see him again until 2018. Also, RHP Conor Mullee is still have issues with his hand and is heading to see a doctor.

Triple-A Scranton (7-0 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K — gets his first hit in his second game in the organization
  • DH Aaron Judge: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K — 3-for-8 with two doubles in his two games back from the knee injury
  • 1B Ike Davis: 0-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — I wrote about him earlier today
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB — he’s hit five homers in his last nine Triple-A games
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 3/5 GB/FB — 49 of 86 pitches were strikes (57%), plus he picked a runner off first … exactly half of his 20 starts this season have been scoreless, which is pretty nuts
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 2/2 GB/FB — 16 of 21 pitches were strikes (76%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eleven pitches, nine strikes
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — eleven pitches, eight strikes … 74/7 K/BB in 51 innings

[Read more…]

Game 107: Sanchez returns, maybe for good this time


As expected, the Yankees called up top catching prospect Gary Sanchez today and he is in tonight’s lineup (at DH) against southpaw Steven Matz. They’ve done this before, calling up Sanchez to spot start against a left-handed pitcher, but this time it seems he may be up for good. For starters, the Yankees gave him No. 24 this time, which looks like a “you’ll be here a while” number. Sanchez wore 73 and 57 his last two times up.

Secondly, the Yankees have spent the last few days doing nothing but talking about prospects and incorporating them into the lineup in the second half. Sanchez is as ready as he’s going get, and with Carlos Beltran gone and Alex Rodriguez glued to the bench, the DH spot is wide open. He just might be here for a while. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. RF Rob Refsnyder
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. DH Gary Sanchez
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Chad Green

The weather in New York is pretty much perfect. Nice and sunny but on the cool side and a little breezy. There are worse days to spend at the ballpark. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES and SNY locally, and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Ben Gamel was sent down to clear a spot on the roster for Sanchez, the Yankees announced. That’s not surprising. Releasing A-Rod is a pipe dream at this point. Joe Girardi did say the team is likely to call up other young players before rosters expand in September, for what it’s worth.

Injury Update: Conor Mullee (hand) is heading to see a doctor after feeling renewed symptoms during his latest minor league rehab game. He’s on the DL with some sort of nerve issue that is making his fingers go numb.

TiqIQ: New-Look Yankees Welcome Crosstown Mets, Divisional Counterparts to Stadium in August

The dust has finally settled, and out of the Yankees’ deadline fire sale come a slew of young players that will have an immediate impact on the franchise’s farm. Top prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres highlight the list of 10 minor leaguers the Yankees hauled in by Monday afternoon, the prized new additions to an organization that now boasts one of the best farm systems in the league.

So where does that leave 2016’s Yankees team? Well, the “No Runs DMC” trio is no longer, with Aroldis Chapman shipping out to Chicago and Andrew Miller taking up new digs with the Cleveland Indians. Carlos Beltran is the latest piece to the Texas Rangers’ playoff hopes while Ivan Nova now dresses in black and yellow in Pittsburgh. Still, with four key players skipping town, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the Yankees battle in the Bronx this month.

The Wild Card race is slowly slipping out of reach, and following Tuesday’s loss to the New York Mets the Yankees now sit 5.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. There will be several notable teams making their way to Yankee Stadium over the next four weeks, however, and Yankees tickets in August won’t be too taxing on the wallet for fans attending an upcoming game.

The Mets will be in town for the second half of a four-game series beginning tonight. Despite both teams’ recent shortcomings, the hype surrounding the Subway Series games will make them the most expensive to attend in the Bronx this month. As it stands now tickets to tonight’s game start from $95. The final game of the series will be slightly cheaper to attend, with tickets listed from $58 in the 200 level headed out towards right field.

Following their two-game bout with the Mets, the Yankees welcome the red-hot Cleveland Indians for a three-game series this weekend. The Indians made a splash last Sunday after acquiring the former Yankee Miller, who was greeted to the team with a home run from Joe Mauer in his first appearance Monday night. With the lockdown lefty back in town this weekend, all three games will offer relatively cheap price points, with tickets starting from just $17 each in the outfield bleachers.

A mid-week trip to Boston will pen three games against the Red Sox from August 9-11. The Yankees return home for a six-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, the latter of which are neck-and-neck with the Orioles atop the division to begin the month. While tickets are listed from $17 during the Rays series, fans can take advantage of the MasterCard Half-Price Game against the Blue Jays on August 17, where tickets can be found at just $9 each in the outfield bleachers when checking out with a MasterCard.

The first-place Orioles will be the final team to visit Yankee Stadium this month for a three-game stretch between August 26 and 28. Barring an unlikely playoff series, the O’s make their second-to-last trip to New York this season. Like that of the Indians and Rays series, tickets start from $17 on Ticketmaster.

Jacob Lindgren to have Tommy John surgery on Friday


Left-hander Jacob Lindgren will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday, the Yankees announced today. Unfortunately this doesn’t feel like much of a surprise. He’s been out since April with an elbow issue and we recently heard he had been throwing off a mound, so the ligament tear is relatively new. That bites.

Lindgren, 23, was the Yankees second round pick (55th overall) in the 2014 draft. They didn’t have a first rounder that year. Lindgren destroyed the minors (1.83 ERA and 2.03 FIP) and was called up to the Yankees briefly last season. He allowed four runs in seven innings before having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

The Yankees started Lindgren in High-A this season because he couldn’t throw strikes in Spring Training, and, sure enough, that continued with the Tampa Yankees. He walked nine and uncorked six wild pitches in seven innings before being placed on the DL. Lindgren hasn’t appeared in a game since.

These days teams are giving players 14-16 months to rehab from Tommy John surgery, not 12 months, so chances are we won’t see Lindgren in a game again until 2018. He’s going to qualify for a fourth option, which will allow the Yankees to send him to the minors to make up for lost time come that 2018 season.

Tyler Austin has put himself back on the prospect map and should get a look in the second half


As recently as two years ago, Tyler Austin was so well-regarded that Keith Law (subs. req’d) placed him 85th on his annual top 100 prospects list, one spot ahead of current Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. That was the last time Austin would appear on a top 100 list due to ongoing injuries and performance issues. His prospect stock cratered the last two years.

Austin, now 24, hit .263/.332/.390 (105 wRC+) with 17 homers in 806 total plate appearances from 2014-15, mostly at Double-A but also some Triple-A. He dealt with a bunch of injuries too, most notably wrist problems. Those numbers aren’t that bad, but for a bat first prospect at a corner position, they’re not nearly good enough to stay on the various prospect lists.

The injuries and lack of production led to Austin losing his 40-man roster spot last September. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear space for other players and Austin slipped through waivers unclaimed. He went from a top 100 prospect prior to 2014 to unclaimed on waivers in September 2015. Austin didn’t even get invited to big league Spring Training this year. That’s quite a fall, one many players usually don’t come back from.

“You never want to go backward in this game but I think it was a great learning experience for me,” said Austin to Shane Hennigan back in June. “This game humbled me very fast and I found out the hard way. I’m going to try and not let anything like that happen again and continue to work hard and go from there.”

With a healthy wrist and a chip on his shoulder after being passed over on waivers, Austin has rebuilt some prospect stock this year, first by mashing in Double-A and then continuing to do so in Triple-A. He put up a .260/.367/.395 (118 wRC+) line with the Thunder and went into last night’s game hitting .316/.417/.649 (209 wRC+) with the RailRiders. Overall, Austin has hit .288/.392/.521 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 99 games. Those 17 homers are his most since hitting 17 during his breakout 2012 season.

The big bounceback season has put Austin back on the prospect map and apparently on the cusp of the big leagues as well. In recent days both Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner mentioned Austin as a call-up candidate in the second half. When the owner mentions you by name in interviews, you’re doing something right. I’m of the belief Austin should indeed get a look in the second half, and not just because his numbers are good. There are plenty of other good reasons as well.

1. He’s a righty hitter with opposite field power. The old scouting reports on Austin said he had power to all fields and a level swing that made consistent hard contact. We didn’t see that version of Austin from 2014-15 due to the wrist and other physical problems. This year, the good version of Austin has returned, and he’s showing that all-fields power. Check out his 2016 spray chart, via MLB Farm:

Tyler Austin spray chart

I count eight of Austin’s 17 home runs going out to right field. Ten of his 29 doubles have been hit to the right field side of dead center as well. Needless to say, a right-handed hitter who can drive the ball with authority to right field is a damn good fit for Yankee Stadium. Austin has pull power as well, but that ability to go the other way is what made him a top 100 prospect back in the day. We’ve seen the oppo pop return in 2016.

2. He plays a position(s) of need. The Yankees originally drafted Austin out of a Georgia high school as a catcher back in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. He immediately moved to first base, then gave third base a try, then shifted to right field, and now he’s back at first. Austin has moved around quite a bit over the years as the Yankees tried to find his best natural position. Turns out it’s first base.

The Yankees have a long-term need at first base, and while everyone hopes Greg Bird fills that spot, this year’s shoulder injury has thrown a wrench into things. At the very least, the Yankees figure to need a right-handed platoon partner for Bird next season, and that’s a role Austin can fill. He could also be an option in the two corner outfield spots and an emergency option at third base. Austin offers a little versatility and is capable of playing first base, a position that is a question mark going forward until Bird shows he’s healthy and productive.

3. This offseason is decision time. Back in November 2014, the Yankees added Austin to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. They dropped him from the 40-man last September and he went unpicked in December’s Rule 5 Draft, which was no surprise. No team bothered to claim him off waivers, when they could have acquired him for nothing and not put up with the Rule 5 Draft rules. Why would they then take him in the Rule 5 Draft?

This offseason Austin will not just be Rule 5 Draft eligible again. He’s up for minor league free agency. And if he hits the open market, the smart money is on him joining an organization that gives him the best chance to break into the big leagues immediately. You could argue that team is the Yankees with Mark Teixeira likely to be let go and Bird coming back from shoulder surgery, but Austin may not see it that way.

The Yankees are going to have to decide whether to keep Austin by adding him to the 40-man roster — if he’s put back on the 40-man, he can’t become a minor league free agent — or likely lose him for nothing as a free agent. That’s not ideal. Austin has two minor league option years left, so they could keep him and always send him back to Triple-A if there’s a roster crunch. That’s not a problem. Either way, it’s decision time. Something has to happen.

* * *

It’s important to keep in mind that while it’s good to call a player up and get a look at him in the second half, it can be deceiving. Those 40-50 games are still a small sample size and they can play tricks on you. Luis Severino sure looked ready to take over as the staff ace following those eleven starts last season, right? Those 40-50 games are useful and they do help teams evaluate the player. They don’t tell the entire story though. Hardly.

Austin’s prospect stock took a huge hit the last two years, so much so that he went unclaimed on waivers. He’s rebounded this season thanks mostly to good health, and if nothing else, he’s put himself in position to be considered for a call-up. With Teixeira not hitting all year and a clear long-term need at first base, it would behoove the Yankees to call Austin up and get his feet wet at the MLB level down the stretch. His performance and those three reasons above are why it should happen.