Severino has made some progress with his slider, and now he needs to do the same with his changeup

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two nights ago Luis Severino returned to the rotation with a thud, not a bang. The Red Sox roughed him up for five runs on seven hits (five extra-base hits) in 4.1 innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk anyone, so … yay? The Yankees didn’t exactly set Severino up for success by starting him against MLB’s best offense in Fenway Park, but what’s done is done.

Severino earned Tuesday’s start with three strong relief outings, particularly his 4.1 inning masterpiece against the Mets last week. Overall, he allowed one run with ten strikeouts in 8.1 innings out of the bullpen. That’s after a successful ten-start stint with Triple-A Scranton. Chad Green getting smacked around by the Mets certainly played a role in the team’s decision to start Severino as well.

The Yankees sent Severino down weeks ago with a specific goal in mind: improve his secondary stuff. Both the quality of his pitches and his location. I think we’ve seen progress with his slider. First and foremost, he’s actually locating it down in the zone now. Here are his slider locations in 2016 (click for larger):

Luis Severino sliders

Severino has done a much better job burying the slider down and away to righties since being recalled, and a better job keeping it down in the zone in general. Earlier this season he was throwing cement mixers that just spun up in the zone and got hammered. At least now he’s burying them, and, as a result, the swing-and-miss rate on his slider jumped from 11.1% earlier this year to 13.9% since being recalled. (It was 8.9% last year.)

The progress Severino has made with his slider — both in terms of location and swing-and-miss rate — is promising, though it’s clear there’s still some work to be done here. The league average swing-and-miss rate on sliders is 15.2%, after all. That’s okay though! He’s a 22-year-old kid who is still developing. Severino apparently made some real progress with his slider while in Triple-A and that’s good to see.

Now, that all said, the slider is just one piece of the puzzle. The Yankees sent Severino down to work on his secondary pitches. Not secondary pitch. The changeup was supposed to be a point of emphasis too, and so far, we’ve rarely seen it since Severino was called back up. He threw 85 pitches the other night against the Red Sox, and two were changeups. Two! It’s not like he didn’t have an opportunity to throw it either; the BoSox had six lefty hitters in the lineup.

Severino has thrown six changeups out of 207 total pitches since being called back up, or 2.9%. It was 14.6% changeups last year and 14.6% changeups before being sent down earlier this year. I can understand not throwing changeups out of the bullpen, but what’s the reason for Tuesday night? Severino was throwing to Gary Sanchez, who caught him a ton in the minors, so I can’t imagine not trusting the catcher was a reason.

“I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago,” said Severino to Chad Jennings yesterday. Tuesday night Severino was out there as a two-pitch pitcher. He threw 43 fastballs, 40 sliders, and two changeups. That’s better than being a one-pitch pitcher like he was earlier this season, but it’s still not good enough. It leads to things like this:

First time through the lineup: 2-for-9 (two singles)
Second and third time through: 5-for-11 (four doubles, one triple)

Once the lineup turned over and hitters got a second look at him, the Red Sox were over all Severino. Those doubles (and triple) were not softly hit. They were rockets off the wall and down the line. The swings were mighty comfortable, and part of that is the Red Sox just being really good at hitting, for sure. Part of it is also Severino having nothing else in his bag of tricks. Once they saw the fastball and slider, hitters had nothing else to worry about.

Throwing bad changeups is one thing. Not throwing the changeup is another. It suggests Severino is not comfortable using it at this point, which is weird, because all throughout his time in the minors we heard it was his top secondary pitch. From Baseball America in 2014 (subs. req’d):

While Severino’s mid-80s slider was his top secondary pitch before he signed, he has developed a solid changeup since signing, and it’s presently the better of the two. His slider still flashes plus but remains inconsistent.

And now from Baseball America in 2015 (subs. req’d):

He couples the fastball with a changeup that features plenty of late fade. He’s confident enough to double and triple up on the pitch at times and use it to get strikeouts against both lefthanders and righthanders.

Yeah, we didn’t see that the other night. To be fair, we’re talking about one start. A pitcher not using his changeup in relief is not uncommon at all. We need some more information before we can say anything definitive about Severino’s changeup usage, or lack thereof. It was just really discouraging to see him shy away from the pitch entirely the other night, especially since he actually got a whiff with one of the two changeups he did throw.

Luis Severino changeup

One thing has become increasingly clear this season: Severino is not the instant ace we all wanted to believe he was coming into the season. His secondary pitches need work, and to his credit, he went to the minors and improved his slider. Did he improve his changeup as well? We don’t know. Severino hasn’t thrown it since coming back, but he’ll need it to be successful. Almost every starter does.

The Yankees could have kept running Severino out there every fifth day — it’s not like they’re in the postseason race — but they opted to send him to Triple-A yesterday, which is for the best in my opinion. The team really rushed him up the minor league ladder and a lot of the things Severino is working on now are things he should have worked on in the minors, before his MLB debut. This year the Yankees have been forced to send him down to play catch up.

There’s a fine line between letting a guy go through developmental growing pains and letting him get blasted every fifth day, destroying his confidence. I think Severino is really at risk of the former. Hopefully things are different the rest of the year, and we see the same improvement with the changeup as we’ve seen with the slider whenever he comes back up. Severino’s a very important piece of the long-term picture and getting him right has to be Priority No. 1 the rest of 2016.

Poll: Replacing Alex Rodriguez

Austin. (Presswire)
Austin. (Presswire)

Tomorrow night Alex Rodriguez will play the final game of his MLB career. That’s pretty wild, isn’t it? We all knew the end would come sooner rather than later, but this is all happening so fast. It’s for the best though. The Yankees are better off with someone else occupying A-Rod‘s roster spot, and come Saturday, someone else will indeed be occupying that roster spot.

The Yankees seem committing to giving their young players a chance down the stretch, and A-Rod’s exit gives them an opportunity to incorporate another kid into the lineup. Gary Sanchez has been up for a week already and he’s getting regular at-bats. It’s pretty cool. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin seem to be the most likely candidates to replace A-Rod, but they’re not alone. Let’s break down their cases.

Tyler Austin

The Case For Austin: After a few seasons of injury and poor performance, Austin has put himself back on the prospect map this year by hitting .295/.394/.527 (161 wRC+) with 17 homers in 106 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s got opposite field pop and defensive versatility, at least somewhat. Austin can play first base and right field, as well as DH. He could also man third base in a real pinch, but not regularly.

Austin has to be added to the 40-man roster after the season and the Yankees figure to do exactly that rather than risk losing him for nothing. Greg Bird is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and first base is a little up in the air next season, and Austin could be an option there. Calling him up now and giving him regular at-bats would give the Yankees a chance to evaluate him against MLB caliber pitching. That’s the entire point of calling these guys up.

The Case Against Austin: Even with the bounceback year, Austin’s upside is not sky high, and he projects as maybe a solid regular at the MLB level if things break right. Historically, righty hitting and righty throwing first basemen have to hit and hit big to stick around long-term. Austin’s ability to play the outfield works in his favor, though we’re now talking about a right-handed Garrett Jones type. Rather than audition Austin this month, the Yankees could opt to play a higher upside prospect with a better chance to be a part of the next core.

Aaron Judge

The Case For Judge: Simply put, Judge came into the season as the team’s top prospect — he’d still be their top prospect if not for the Clint Frazier trade — and he’s done exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do this season. He’s putting up good numbers (.265/.359/.472 with 18 homers and a 141 wRC+) and he’s cut his strikeout rate down to 23.9%, lowest it’s been since he was in Low-A ball two years ago. The performance is there.

Judge. (Times Leader)
Judge. (Times Leader)

On top of that, the right field job is wide open going forward, and Judge is the obvious candidate to assume that position long-term. It’s not just about the bat. Judge is a surprisingly good runner for his size and he’s an asset on defense with a very strong arm. He’s going to surprise a lot of people with his athleticism when he first comes up. Guys listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 lbs. usually don’t move this well. Judge is the heir apparent in right field and his time is now.

The Case Against Judge: Judge did just return from a knee injury that forced him to miss close to a month, remember. He’s performed well since returning, going 10-for-29 (.345) in eight games, but that’s still a lot of time to miss. A few more Triple-A at-bats to make up for the lost time wouldn’t be the end of the world. Also, Judge doesn’t offer much versatility, so if the Yankees remain committed to giving Aaron Hicks a look, the everyday at-bats might not be there.

Other Candidates

Ben Gamel: Gamel is having another strong season in Triple-A (132 wRC+) around a few short call-ups to MLB. He’s a lefty hitting outfielder, which is something the Yankees don’t exactly lack right now. Finding playing time for Gamel, who might only be a fourth outfielder long-term, might not be all that easy. I — and I think the Yankees — would rather see Hicks out there everyday.

Clint Frazier: Overall, Frazier is hitting .273/.345/.463 (122 wRC+) this season, though most of that is at Double-A. He’s played 13 total games at Triple-A (73 wRC+), including eight since the trade. Frazier is ridiculously talented and a potential impact hitter, but there is still some development to be done. Calling him up would be a sexy, headline making move. It would also be extremely aggressive.

Chris Parmelee: Remember him? Parmelee is currently on a Triple-A rehab assignment and will have to be activated off the DL no later than Thursday, August 25th. He could be activated to replace A-Rod and get a bunch of first base and DH at-bats. Of course, the 28-year-old Parmelee has no long-term future in the organization, so he doesn’t exactly qualify as part of the youth movement.

Others like Jake Cave, Cesar Puello, and Mason Williams could be call-up candidates as well — Williams is actually on the Triple-A DL with a quad injury at the moment — though they seem to be further down the depth chart at the moment. It truly feels like it’s Austin and Judge against the field right now. Who’s the best option?

Who should be called up to replace A-Rod?

Sanchez and the bullpen help the Yankees rally for a 9-4 win over the Red Sox

That game was shaping up to be very bad, yet it turned out to be very, very good. The Yankees came from behind for a 9-4 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night thanks in large part to their bullpen, which was far more effective than Boston’s. That was a satisfying win. Yes, yes it was.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Johnny Wholestaff (W, 1-0)
Even good games bring bad news these days, unfortunately. Following a quick 12-pitch 1-2-3 first inning, Nathan Eovaldi was removed from the game with right elbow discomfort. He was sent back to New York for tests, which is never good. Looking at the big picture, losing a starter sucks. As far as Wednesday was concerned, the Yankees had to get eight innings from their bullpen without a true long man available. Yikes.

First out of the bullpen: Chasen Shreve. He tossed a scoreless second inning before giving up a run in the third. Next up: the recently claimed Blake Parker. He helped Shreve allow that run in the third, then allowed one of his own in the fourth. Both runs scored on fielder’s choices too, which is always annoying. They were potential double plays that weren’t turned for whatever reason. Blah. The Yankees were down 2-0 and on their fourth pitcher by the fourth inning.

Nick Goody finished up the fourth, tag-teamed the fifth with Tommy Layne, then Layne and Tyler Clippard got together to allow two more runs in the sixth. Didi Gregorius swatted a solo homer in the fifth, so those two runs charged to Layne made it 4-1 Red Sox. Clippard stranded runners on second and third in the sixth by getting Hanley Ramirez to pop-up, and that turned out to be a huge moment in the game given everything that followed.

Five-Run Seventh
The Yankees blew some scoring chances early in the game, the kind you figured would come back to bite them at some point. They wasted a leadoff single in the first, blew a two on with no outs chance in the fifth, then got nothing out of having two on with one out in the sixth. Double plays by Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro short-circuited those rallies. Annoying!

The offense made it up for it with their five-run seventh inning. Six hits and a walk did the trick. Let’s recap that game-changing inning with an annotated play-by-play:

NYYvsBOSpbp

(1) This rally came together very quick. Gregorius started the inning with a single, then bam, first pitch single by Gary Sanchez, and bam, second pitch single by Austin Romine to score a run. The bottom of the order got things started. The Yankees were in business before you knew it.

(2) Alex Rodriguez got to play! Joe Girardi determined A-Rod gave them the best chance to win against a hard-throwing righty in his first at-bat since August 2nd. Alex worked himself into a hitter’s count before flying out harmlessly to right. It was just off the end of the bat. It was a productive out though; Sanchez was able to tag up and get to third base with one out in the inning. Small bites. (Because that’s all this offense has been capable of most of the year.)

(3) The Jacoby Ellsbury single was huge. Biggest hit of the inning, I thought. A-Rod’s fly out and Gardner’s strike out meant the Yankees were on the verge of blowing their best scoring chance of the game, but Ellsbury was able to pull a two-strike pitch by Hanley at first base and into right field to score a run and keep the inning alive. If he makes an out there, the Yankees are still down 4-2 with only six outs to go. Instead, he cut the deficit to 4-3.

(4) Chase Headley‘s game-tying single was pretty ridiculous. I don’t know what happened to Fernando Abad — maybe he caught a spike during his delivery? — but he slowed down noticeably during his motion and threw Headley was amounted to a 61 mph eephus pitch way up in the zone. Look at this thing:

Chase HeadleyYou’d think a 61 mph pitch would really screw up a hitter’s timing, but Abad slowed his delivery so much that it was easy to pick up. It looked like a batting practice pitch. Headley yanked it to left field to score the runner from third and tie the game.

(5) Ellsbury’s hit was important because it scored a run and kept the inning alive. Castro’s hit was just as important because it gave the Yankees the damn lead. That’s a pretty big deal. He jumped on Junichi Tazawa’s first pitch hanger and pulled it down the line to score two runs, giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Quite a comeback, that was.

The Late Innings
It warms my heart to see Adam Warren being awesome and effective again. He just had to get away from those cursed Cubbies, that’s all. Warren retired all six men he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and he was dotting the corners with his fastball expertly. Two strikeouts looking and four pieces of weak contact. He’s up to nine scoreless innings with the Yankees. That’ll do, Adam.

The Yankees thankfully tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning. Fenway Park is a crazy place and that 6-4 lead didn’t feel all that safe, especially with bullpen having already been decimated. Sanchez scored the first run of the eighth with his first career home run, an absolute monster shot to dead center. Look at this thing. Just look at it:

Hell yes, Gary. Hell yes. Statcast measured that blast at 426 feet and 107 mph off the bat. The numbers aren’t as impressive as it looked, so ignore them and watch the video a few more times. What a bomb.

The Yankees scored their other two eighth inning runs because Robbie Ross Jr. couldn’t throw strikes. He allowed a first pitch single to Rob Refsnyder, wild pitched him to second, walked Ellsbury on four pitches, then allowed two more runs on wild pitches. Ross had no idea where the ball was going. At one point he threw six balls in the span of seven pitches, and they were not competitive pitches. They were nowhere close to the zone. Sanchez’s tater and the two wild pitch runs gave the Yankees a 9-4 lead.

Dellin Betances, who was the last man standing in the bullpen — Anthony Swarzak was unavailable after throwing 40 pitches Tuesday — retired the side in the order in the ninth. New York’s bullpen: 8 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 5 K. Not great, but it’s better than what Boston’s relief crew did: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. The Yankees looked to be in big trouble after Eovaldi had to leave the game. Seven relievers did a nice job not letting things get out of hand, and giving the offense a chance to battle back.

Hah. The guy is the red jersey is so mad. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Hah. The guy is the red jersey is so mad. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Leftovers
Have yourself a night, Gary Sanchez. He went 4-for-5 with that mammoth home run. The kid is alright. The Yankees had 15 hits total, and every starter had at least one except Aaron Hicks. He batted twice before being pinch-hit for by A-Rod, who was then replaced by Refsnyder in right field. Headley, Gregorius, and Romine each had two hits. The Yankees didn’t do much against Drew Pomeranz, but man, they pounded the bullpen.

You know things are going well when Ellsbury gets an outfield assist. He retrieved Mookie Betts’ double in the sixth, quickly threw to the cutoff man, and Gregorius fired a bullet home to cut down Xander Bogaerts trying to score from first. It’s not a true assist in the “Ellsbury threw him out at the plate” sense, but the guy need all the help he can get in the outfield assist department. I’ll allow it.

And finally, I’d expect the Yankees to call up a fresh reliever or three tomorrow after the way Girardi has to use his bullpen tonight. In fact, Luis Cessa’s lady friend Twittered out that he’s on his way up, so there’s one fresh arm. I’d bet on one or two more guys joining him as well.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph. At one point in the sixth inning the Yankees had an 8.6% chance to win the game. Hooray for outliers!


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have been alternating wins and losses since the All-Star break, and they’ll look to buck that trend in the series finale Thursday night. They want to win this three-game set. A-Rod is scheduled to be in the lineup for that one. (Assuming Girardi doesn’t change his mind again, of course.) Michael Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez — not the injured Steven Wright — are the scheduled starters.

DotF: Judge homers in Scranton’s latest blowout win

Got two notes to pass along:

  • The Yankees have released 1B Ike Davis, the team announced. The move clears a roster spot for LHP Richard Bleier, who was send down yesterday. I wouldn’t read anything into this regarding a potential call-up for 1B Tyler Austin. They needed a roster spot and Davis was most expendable. That’s all.
  • PNC Field in Scranton (well, Moosic, technically) will host the 2017 Triple-A Championship Game between the International League and Pacific Coast League, reports Shane Hennigan. That’s pretty neat. Each year the IL and PCL champs meet for a one-game winner-take-all Triple-A title game.

Triple-A Scranton (10-0 win over Lehigh Valley) they lead the International League with 538 runs … only one other team is over 500 for the season

  • LF Ben Gamel: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 12-for-30 (.400) in his last six games
  • CF Clint Frazier: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, a triple, and a homer in his last five games
  • RF Aaron Judge: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — here’s video of the homer
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-4, 1 R
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 10-for-17 (.588) with five doubles in his last six games … I have to think he’s the odds on favorite to come up after Alex Rodriguez is released Saturday, but we’ll see
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-5, 1 R, 1 PB
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%) … he has a 1.29 ERA in 181.1 innings since coming back from Tommy John surgery last season
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, eight strikes

[Read more…]

Update: Eovaldi leaves start with elbow discomfort

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

8:02pm: Eovaldi left the game with right elbow discomfort, the Yankees announced. He’s going back to New York to be examined. Groan. Eovaldi had elbow discomfort last September and it turned out to be only inflammation, so hopefully they get relatively good news again.

7:37pm: Nathan Eovaldi left tonight’s start after just one inning for an unknown reason. Injury is a pretty safe assumption, I’d say. Eovaldi looked fine during his 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning. His velocity seemed fine and there was no obvious “he looked like he tweaked something” moment. Weird.

The Yankees have not yet announced any sort of update on Eovaldi, so stay tuned. They don’t have a true long man on the roster, which means they’re going to blow through their bullpen using guys for one or two innings each. That’s never good.

Game 113: Trying to Win

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses since the trade deadline, which means they’re due for a win today. That’s good, because these games are super important and the Yankees are still trying to win. Joe Girardi‘s not managing a retirement tour here. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

The weather in Boston isn’t all that great today. It’s been raining on and off and that’s supposed to continue this evening. The heaviest stuff is supposed to come overnight. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET. It’ll be broadcast on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Blake Parker, who was claimed off waivers yesterday, was added to the roster and Luis Severino was optioned to Triple-A to clear a roster spot, the Yankees announced. They’ll need to come up with a starter for Sunday’s game. (Chad Green lines up perfectly.) By my unofficial count, 13 days in the minors delays Severino’s free agency one more year.

Injury Update: Conor Mullee underwent “ulnar nerve decompression surgery” on his right elbow yesterday, the Yankees announced. The team did not announce a timetable for his return, but at this point of the season, I’m guessing he’s done for the year. That bites. At least Mullee gets MLB pay while on the DL after four elbow surgeries and more than five years in the minors.

Red Sox Rotation Update: Steven Wright is no longer starting tomorrow. He jammed something running the bases a few days ago. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez still start in his place.

TiqIQ: Tickets Are Still Available for A-Rod’s Last Game Friday

Friday marks the end of Alex Rodriguez’s career in pinstripes, and while the nation draws its attention to Yankee Stadium as the beleaguered star takes his last licks, there’s still a chance to witness the festivities live.

A mad dash to the box office ensued after the 41-year-old’s press conference Sunday morning, and by Monday afternoon only a few dozen seats were still available on Ticketmaster. However, those that slept on purchasing can still find Yankees tickets for A-Rod’s last game. Don’t expect them to be there much longer, though.

As it stands now the cheapest available tickets to Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays are $95 each in Section 105 next to the Yankees bullpen. It is the only section currently offering ticket prices below $100. In Section 114, which is located on the first base side, tickets are currently listed from $150 each. Several other seats are available starting from $175 each in Section 128 headed out towards left field.

Prepare for prices to spike if looking elsewhere in the stadium. Tickets are still available in the 100 section behind home plate but will cost upwards of $275 each. The most expensive available tickets are going for $500 each in wheelchair-accessible seats in Section 122A.

Whether watching from right field or the comfort of the living room couch, Friday night will mark the end of an era in the Bronx. A-Rod’s tumultuous 12-year run as a member of the Yankees was a polarizing one; two MVP Awards and a World Series title were overshadowed by his illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs, which he initially claimed to have used solely during his brief career in Texas. That would later prove to be false, as the slugger would also admit to using PEDs from late 2010 to October 2012.

Still, weighed down with the fact that he will never enter the Hall of Fame with pure intentions, A-Rod’s many accomplishments both off and on the field cannot be overlooked. He was a poster child for the game for nearly two decades, and though his play was virtually non-existent over the last four weeks, there’s no doubt that Yankee Stadium will be packed to the brim to see his final at-bats Friday night.

And who knows, maybe this isn’t the end for the aging slugger. The thought of playing again hasn’t been ruled out, so perhaps he’ll be back in the opposing dugout wearing road greys next season. And wouldn’t that be something.