Luis Severino's Breakout Is for Real This Time
Having just one breakout season is soooo early 2000s.
Luis Severino already has a burst-onto-the-scene campaign on his resume. It came in 2015 as the then-21-year-old righty debuted with an electric 62 1/3 frames.
But Severino is doing it again. He's breaking out and taking his game to a truly elite level, reminding everyone why we were so excited about him two years ago.
After his initial 2015 emergence, big things were expected from Severino in 2016, which was supposed to be his first full season in the show. It never materialized. Severino followed up his sparking rookie campaign with an inconsistent and injury-plagued -- although still pretty good -- season last year, spending half of it in the minors as he fine tuned his game.
We had to wait a year for him to make the leap, but Severino has done leapt out of sight in 2017.
The Original Breakout
In 2015, Severino posted a 3.84 SIERA, 22.0% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate across 62 1/3 innings (11 starts). Everything checked out, too, as he owned a 9.6% swinging-strike rate and 50.3% ground-ball rate.
For reference, the league averages that year were a 20.4% strikeout rate, 7.7% walk rate, 45.3% ground-ball rate and 3.89 SIERA. So, as a 21-year-old, Severino was better than league average at getting whiffs and inducing grounders. His SIERA was a touch below the league-average clip, as well, with his slightly inflated walk rate being the only speed bump.
Not So Fast
We're in the midst of an era in which the game is overflowing with young talent, and much of the young talent has come up and made an impact as soon as they got the call to the bigs.
Severino appeared to be another such player. After all, he was the first pitcher in American League history to fan seven without issuing a walk while holding the opposition to two or fewer hits in his debut.
The 2016 season was going to be another rung in the ladder as he climbed his way among the ranks of the game's best young arms.
It didn't happen.
Severino opened the season in the rotation, but after a slow start which culminated with the righty allowing 7 runs in 2 2/3 frames in an ugly outing against the Chicago White Sox, he was placed on the disabled list with a triceps injury.
He ended up throwing more innings in the minors (80 1/3) than he did in the bigs (71) in 2016. His final MLB line from the season -- 21.2% strikeout rate, 8.0% walk rate and 4.06 SIERA -- wasn't awful by any stretch, but it wasn't the step forward most were expecting.
The Breakout Part II
Instead, that step forward is happening right now. Except it's not a step forward -- it's a Carl Lewis jump forward.
Through 61 1/3 innings in 2017, Severino is putting up career-best marks nearly across the board. He has a 3.05 SIERA, 27.8% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate, 11.6% swinging-strike rate and 54.4% ground-ball rate. That's a check in all the boxes.
Severino's one bugaboo in previous years was his above-average walk rate, but he has gotten stingy with free passes while simultaneously producing more grounders and strikeouts. That's good.
Heaters at 97 are going to get a lot of people out, and per Bryan Hoch, hitters have mustered a meager .157 average and .420 OPS on the change and slide-piece. Guys can't hit the cheese, and they're not hitting the offspeed stuff.
Dude is straight rolling. Over his last five starts, Severino has allowed six total runs -- including four starts of no more than one run -- and he's racked up a swinging-strike rate of at least 16.0% in two of his past three outings.
His most recent dominant display came Tuesday night, when he allowed one run against the Baltimore Orioles over 6 1/3 innings, fanning eight and walking one. Don't feel the need to turn on your sound for this video; all you're going to here is the phrase "a swing and a miss" a bunch of times.
.@LuisSeverino94 (@Yankees_Beisbol) 6 1/3IP - 7H - 1C - 1CL - BB - 8K - 100 lanzamientos - 2.93PCL. GanÃ³ (4-2).#AguiluchosMLB pic.twitter.com/2KgGjao1Jh
â€” Aguilas CibaeÃ±as BBC (@aguilascibaenas) May 31, 2017
Let's get one more look at the frisbee he threw to Joey Rickard, which helped Severino escape his only jam of the night.
.@LuisSeverino94 termina su salida para #YankeesBeisbol con estos nÃºmeros:
6.1 EL, 7 H, 1 C, 1 BB, 8 P pic.twitter.com/Dke3RuRC41
â€” Yankees Beisbol (@Yankees_Beisbol) May 31, 2017
Sir Isaac Newton is going to have to explain to me how a ball going 89 miles per hour is able to move like that.
How Good Is He?
While it may seem like a rush to judgment to call him one of the very best pitchers in baseball, the numbers fully back it up. Sure, his 61 1/3 innings from this season is not the biggest sample size, but let's roll with it.
Among this year's qualified pitchers, Severino currently ranks 12th in fWAR, 9th in ground-ball rate, 11th in strikeout rate, 15th in walk rate and 8th in SIERA.
Zack Greinke, Michael Pineda, Chris Sale and Severino are the only pitchers who rank in the top 15 in both strikeout rate and walk rate. Only Severino also ranks in the top 15 in ground-ball rate. In fact, only one other hurler (Lance McCullers, who is breaking out in his own right) sits in the top 15 in both strikeout rate and ground-ball rate.
Just to recap: Severino is among the game's best at getting punchouts, limiting walks and inducing grounders -- basically the holy trinity of pitching Gucciness.
On a fun-to-watch team which is loaded with young talent -- you may have caught wind of Aaron Judge, Dellin Betances and Gary Sanchez -- it's Severino who is the Yankees' youngest player and their best pitcher, per fWAR. Pretty good for a guy who wasn't assured of a rotation spot in spring training.
Lorenzo Cain knows.
Tonight's Yankees starter, Luis Severino, earned at least one Royals player's respect in his last start. #YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/RQmbekXv3m
â€” YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 30, 2017
Severino has helped the Yankees get off to a dazzling start. Our power rankings have them as baseball's second-best team (behind the Los Angeles Dodgers), and we give them an 82.5% chance to make the postseason.
The Pinstripes' five-minute rebuild has gone astoundingly well. Severino's breakout campaign -- should I say, his most recent breakout season -- is a big reason why, and it looks like he's here to stay this time.