Luis Severino Aced His Final Regular Season Test

© Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes were on Aaron Judge as he took the pursuit of his 62nd home run to Globe Life Field Monday night (the slugger went homerless), but it was Luis Severino who stole the show. In his third start back following a 10-week absence due to a strained latissimus dorsi, Severino threw seven no-hit innings before his pitch count forced him from the game. The Rangers did collect two hits in the eighth inning, but Severino’s outing offered the Yankees some reassurance regarding the oft-injured 28-year-old righty as the postseason approaches.

Facing the Rangers — a team that had already lost 92 games and that entered Monday ranked 10th in the American League both in batting average (.239) and wRC+ (98, tied with the Guardians) — Severino allowed just one baserunner. He retired the first seven batters he faced before walking Josh Smith, who was immediately erased via a 101-mph double play groundball off the bat of Bubba Thompson. Only once after the third inning did Severino even yield a hard-hit ball, a 99-mph fourth-inning drive by Corey Seager that had a .480 expected batting average based on its exit velocity and 25-degree launch angle (but not its direction). None of the 12 other batted balls he allowed had an xBA higher than .340.

Severino’s four-seam fastball was overpowering, matching his season-high game average of 97.8 mph (set on April 9) and topping out at 100.3 on a swinging strike to Thompson in the sixth inning. He not only maintained that velocity but got a bit faster as his outing continued:

Severino threw eight fastballs of 98 mph or higher in his final inning. In all, he got 10 swinging strikes and 10 called strikes on the heater (36% CSW%), plus three swinging strikes and two called strikes on his changeup (29% CSW%). The latter pitch averaged 88.7 mph, producing a 9.1-mph separation between the two pitches that helped to keep the Rangers hitters off balance.

What’s more, Severino was economical, going to a three-ball count only five times. Three of them resulted in strikeouts: Josh Jung in the second inning, and both Adolis García and Jonah Heim in the fifth. Smith reached a three-ball count twice, via the third-inning walk and then before he popped out in the sixth:

Following outings of 64 and 76 pitches in his return from the injured list, most recently a four-inning, three-walk, two-run slog against the Blue Jays on September 26, Severino had a targeted pitch count of 90. He reached 89 pitches with two outs in the seventh, and manager Aaron Boone gave him a chance to finish the inning, which he did by striking out Nathaniel Lowe swinging at a 99.5 mph fastball for his seventh K of the night, and his sixth of his final three innings. Boone broke the news of the hook to Severino afterwards, and the pitcher didn’t want to hear it:

“It’s a decision that sucks to have to make because he was very efficient,” said Boone afterwards. “I think he understood I wasn’t going to take him to 120, 125, 130 pitches tonight. And that’s where it probably would have had to go to finish something like that. Had it been the eighth, that would have been a [tougher] decision, and I probably would’ve — if it felt like he was sound — let him go.”

“It was a good decision,” conceded Severino afterwards, noting the context of his time missed, his recent pitch counts, and the approaching postseason. With David Cone in the booth, the YES Network needed little prompting to compare the situation to the former Yankee’s September 2, 1996 outing, when after a four-month absence due to surgery to repair an aneurysm under his right arm, the righty threw seven no-hit innings against the A’s before Joe Torre pulled him with an eye towards the postseason.

The attempt at a combined no-hitter didn’t last much longer than Severino. With a 3-0 lead on the strength of home runs by Marwin Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton (but not Judge, who went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout), with a doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday, and with A-list relievers Clay Holmes and Ron Marinaccio nursing injuries (Marinaccio was placed on the IL today and won’t be eligible for the Division Series), Boone called upon Miguel Castro, who hadn’t made a major league appearance since July 10 due to a shoulder strain. After striking out García, the 27-year-old righty yielded back-to-back singles to Jung and Heim before extricating himself. Scott Effross pitched a spotless ninth for the save.

Severino became the 18th starter to throw at least five hitless innings this season and get pulled with a no-hitter still intact, down from a high of 24 last year but still the second-highest total in major league history. He became the season’s sixth starter to throw at least seven no-hit innings and get the hook before giving up a hit:

Pulled After 7 or More No-Hit Innings
Player Team Opp Date IP Pit BB SO
Hunter Greene CIN PIT 5/15/22 7.1 118 5 9
Sean Manaea SDP ARI 4/8/22 7.0 88 1 7
Clayton Kershaw LAD MIN 4/13/22 7.0 80 0 13
Cristian Javier HOU NYY 6/25/22 7.0 115 1 13
Joe Ryan MIN KCR 9/13/22 7.0 106 2 9
Luis Severino NYY TEX 10/3/22 7.0 94 1 7
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

The shortened spring training and a lack of build-up cost Manaea and Kershaw (who was perfect through seven) their shots at no-hitters, but each already has one under his belt. Greene was charged with a run, the only one scored in a hitless loss on the road that, because it was only eight innings, didn’t count as a combined no-hitter. Rising pitch counts got the better of both Javier and Ryan; the former was followed by two relievers who finished the no-hitter, one of two combined no-nos this year. The Mets had the other, with Tylor Megill throwing six innings and four relievers joining the fun against the Phillies on April 29. The Angels’ Reid Detmers pitched the major’s only complete-game no-hitter this year, against the Rays on May 10.

Severino’s effort puts a cap on an encouraging season for a pitcher who has been beleaguered by injuries. After making the AL All-Star team in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and ’18 while topping 190 innings each time, he was limited to just three starts and 18 innings in ’19 due to rotator cuff inflammation and a Grade 2 lat strain, then underwent Tommy John surgery just before the pandemic shut down everything in early ’20. After rehabbing and dealing with additional groin and shoulder injuries, he made just four relief appearances last year.

In light of all that, his strong first half was particularly impressive. Through his first 15 starts, he pitched to a 3.11 ERA and 3.54 FIP, including a run from May 16 in which he lasted at least six innings in eight out of nine starts, delivering a 2.60 ERA and 3.41 FIP in 55.1 innings. On July 13 against the Reds, however, he struggled to muster his usual velocity, served up three home runs, and departed after two innings with what was later diagnosed as a lat strain. He had already begun throwing again in early August when, to his surprise, the Yankees moved him to the 60-day injured list without notifying him. With the team having built up a double-digit lead in the AL East at the time, and with the previously injured Domingo Germán able to fill his rotation spot, the apparent rationale was to ensure that Severino — whose mounting innings total after his minimal workloads of recent years would have become a concern at some point — returned to working order for the postseason.

Severino ends his regular season with a 3.18 ERA and 3.70 FIP in 102 innings. The ERA matches up exactly with what he did in 2017-18 combined, though in those years he managed a 3.01 FIP. Both his 27.3% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate are about a point and a half in the wrong direction relative to those All-Star seasons, and while his 1.33 homers per nine is about 40% higher, it’s distorted by his injury-shortened outing, when he clearly wasn’t right. Driven by his high strikeout rate rather than his middling contact stats (only his barrel rate is above the 50th percentile), his Statcast expected stats are still as good or better than those from his heyday, albeit in a smaller sample size:

Luis Severino Statcast Profile
Season BBE EV Barrel% HardHit% xBA xSLG wOBA xwOBA xERA
2017 495 87.2 6.1% 33.5% .215 .339 .263 .271 3.10
2018 509 88.4 7.7% 34.7% .240 .394 .290 .299 3.76
2022 259 89.4 6.9% 41.6% .203 .328 .273 .268 2.94
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Pitch-wise, Severino’s average four-seam velocity of 96.3 mph is down 1.3 mph from 2018 but up a full click from last year’s limited sample. Batters have managed just a .186 average and .377 slugging percentage against the pitch, with the latter down from .451 in 2018; this year’s 20.2% whiff rate on the pitch is just half a point lower. Thus the pitch’s Statcast run value of -11 (11 runs prevented) is just one run shy of his career best, set that season. His slider has been exceptional as well (.169 AVG, .303 SLG, 41.6% whiff, -6 runs).

With Frankie Montas sidelined by shoulder inflammation and likely unavailable for the Division Series even if he had pitched effectively since being acquired at the trade deadline, the Yankees figure to start Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Severino, and Jameson Taillon in some order against the winner of the Guardians matchup against the third Wild Card team (either the Rays or Mariners). From that group, it’s the nominal staff ace Cole who’s had the shaky results lately, with a 4.80 ERA and 5.05 FIP in September (Michael Ajeto’s analysis of his fastball shape is worth a read). That Severino has shown he’s good to go for October gives Boone and the Yankees some added flexibility and confidence it comes to planning for the postseason.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Great piece. Very interested to see in what order the yanks deploy Cole/Cortes/Sevy in the ALDS given cole’s HR struggles and the high note that the latter two ended on.