There was Nathan Eovaldi in 2018. Then there was Julio Urias last year. Next up is Luis
Severino, who must play a similar role to those two starters-turned-relievers for the New York Yankees to win their 28th World Series Championship this year.
Two of the past three world champions – 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers and 2018 Boston Red Sox — each had one thing in common: they had starters coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
Just this past season, Urias started just two of his six postseason appearances, after starting 11 times in the regular season with a 3.27 ERA.
Urias flourished in his new role, allowing just three earned runs in 23 postseason innings pitched. To cap his pivotal postseason performance, he closed out both game seven of the National League Championship Series and game six of the World Series.
Eovaldi was the Red Sox fifth starter in 2018, but in their run to a world championship, he took on the same flexible role that Urias did two years later. In 22.1 postseason innings, his ERA was 1.61.
Severino will be that guy for the Yankees in 2021, Of course, he could step back into the rotation, but as of right now, it looks like the starting staff will be Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Corey Kluber and Nestor Cortes. Severino has become the lethal weapon in Aaron Boone’s back pocket.
Can the Yankees expect Severino, 27, to be as effective as he was when he came into his own in 2017 (14-6 with a 152 ERA+ and 230 strikeouts in 193.1 innings)? He is in line to follow in the footsteps of guys like Adam Wainwright who also had the surgery in their prime. Wainwright had the surgery at age 29 and came back to make 32 starts and throw 198.2 innings the next season. The following two years Wainwright finished in the top three of the National League Cy Young voting.
Severino will be what Eovaldi was to the Red Sox in 2018 and Urias was to the Dodgers in 2020. He will be someone who can start and come out of the bullpen, throw 96-97 mph for 30-60 pitches, strike guys out and eat up big innings in the postseason. Boone can use him like he did in the 2018 AL Wild Card Game in which Severino started and went four innings, struck out seven batters and didn’t allow a run. He can also use him in a middle-to-late role where he can pitch multiple innings and bridge the gap to a bullpen that consists of Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga and Aroldis Chapman.
In past postseasons, fans have seen the Yankees rely on back-end bullpen guys all too often. When the arms of Green, Britton (who is out for the year), and Chapman are used as much as they are, they naturally wear down — which is part of the reason you’ve seen Chapman give up season-ending home runs in back-to-back years. The workload of those high leverage guys has taken a toll on the Yankees as they’ve gotten deeper into postseason series. This is where Severino comes in.
Severino’s fastball and changeup combination could spell big trouble to hitters in the
postseason. He throws his fastball 56.6% of the time, according to Baseball Savant and hits 96-97 mph consistently. He’s thrown that pitch the most with two strikes. In postseason play where batters are oftentimes taking their 600th at bats of the season, velocity like that plays into missing bats when you need them most. According to a 2017 FanGraphs article, the average fastball sat at about 91 mph in 2008. In 2018 it was up to about 93 mph. In 2017, Severino was the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball averaging 97.5 mph on his fastball.
The options are endless for Boone when Severino returns, and his effectiveness, as a starter or reliever, make him the X-factor in 2021 — and the key to the New York Yankees World Series hopes.
PHOTO: Associated Press