There was just over an hour left at the 2015 trade deadline and the Yankees had to do something. Yes, the Yankees held a six-game lead in the AL East on July 31, 2015 in a season in which they weren’t expected to be competitive, but they needed to make a move to hold that lead over the final two months. Up until that point, the only player the Yankees had acquired was Dustin Ackley (and what an acquisition that turned out to be) while the Blue Jays went out and traded for seemingly everyone and anyone who was available.
I was on the Metro North from Manhattan to Connecticut to visit my parents for the weekend when the news broke that the Yankees had called up when Luis Severino. After eight starts in Double-A, he went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 Triple-A starts to earn the call. The Yankees were finally ready to show off their future as an answer to both their need for starting pitching and the Blue Jays’ deadline trade for David Price.
In a move the Yankees never would have allowed in the previous 15 seasons, the 21-year-old Severino made his Major League debut on Aug. 5 against the Red Sox. He pitched well, going five innings and allowing one earned run on two hits and no walks with seven strikeouts, and finished the season with a 2.89 ERA over 11 starts. He was my pick to start the wild-card game against the Astros, or at least be part of the formula in the game. The only four people I wanted to touch the ball in that game after it was decided Masahiro Tanaka would start were Severino, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter as the offense couldn’t do anything against Dallas Keuchel.
Severino was given a rotation spot for 2016 and pitched himself off the team after his May 13 disaster against the White Sox (2.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 HR). That performance dropped him to 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA in seven starts and he went to Triple-A until the end of July. When he returned, he allowed one earned run in 8 1/3 innings out of the bullpen and was given a chance to start again, but after allowing 12 earned runs and 16 baserunners in eight innings, it was back to Triple-A. When he returned as a September call-up, it was as a reliever. And once again, as a reliever, he was dominant, allowing one earned run in 15 innings.
Severino’s weird 2016 season gave way for all of the idiot Yankees fans to start to call for him to be a reliever, completely disregarding what he did in 11 starts in 2015 and only focusing on nine starts in 2016. It’s the same way those same fans are calling for Austin Romine to start over Gary Sanchez, as if 2016 and 2017 Gary Sanchez never existed, and also as if 2011-2017 Austin Romine never existed.
Thankfully, the Yankees front office is more intelligent than most fans and stuck with Severino as a starter. And thankfully, Severino reached out to his idol Pedro Martinez, so that 2016 would never happen again.
Since the start of 2017, Severino is 24-8 with a 2.68 ERA and 348 strikeouts in 292 1/3 innings. Last season, Severino gave up two earned runs or less in 20 of his 31 starts. This season he’s done the same in 12 of his 15 starts.
On Saturday, Severino nonchalantly shut out the Rays for eight innings, allowing three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in a 4-1 win. The win improved Severino’s record to 10-2 on the season and the eight scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 2.09.
There was nothing about his start on Saturday that was surprising. I knew he was going to shut down the Rays and either shut them out or come close to it. I knew he was going to give the pitching staff length and give the bullpen a day off. Most importantly, I knew the Yankees were going to win.
Severino is a pleasure to watch. Every five days, I know the Yankees are going to win, and I know I’m going to enjoy watching the game. I’m not going to see any nibbling, 30-pitch innings or four-inning starts. For a rotation that has to worry about Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow and inconsistency (and now hamstrings too), CC Sabathia’s knee and command, Sonny Gray’s personal catcher needs and astronomical WHIP and two rookies in Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga, no one ever has to worry about Severino. He’s a true No. 1 starter and one of the fewest aces in the game in an era where five innings is considered enough.
From 2009-2012, CC Sabathia was as close to a sure-thing every five days that the Yankees ever had and before his elbow injury in 2014, Masahiro Tanaka was the same. Now Severino is that sure-thing with the Yankees going 33-13 in his starts since the beginning of last season. On a team that has Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino is the most important Yankee.
I’m happy the Yankees didn’t trade Luis Severino at the 2015 deadline for David Price or at any other time for any other player, and I’m happy that Pedro Martinez decided to help the team he could never beat.