One of the best things about analyzing pitcher performance is that it’s easy to get a sense of pitch quality right away. Granted, sometimes a pitcher may not have a feel for his breaking ball on any given day, but that’s not often the case. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly when gauging a pitcher’s health, is velocity. Either it’s there or it isn’t — guys don’t start games throwing 90 miles per hour only to work up to 98 late in the game.
And that’s where Luis Severino’s first two starts of 2019 come into play. Obviously, the numbers are fantastic. He’s struck out thirteen batters across nine shutout innings. From watching, it’s apparent that his stuff looks good and that he hasn’t had too much trouble shaking off the rust. Still, let’s take a closer look at his arsenal following a long layoff.
Severino has averaged 96.6 miles per hour on his four-seamer in the early going. That’s one tick slower than last year, but that’s not a big concern. For one, he’s topped out at 98.8 MPH, which shows that he still has his best fastball in him. And like many pitchers, it may take him another couple of outings to build up his average velocity to 97.6, where he’s stood each of the past two seasons.
Louis Cefarino’s Sevy’s had really good command of his heater too. He’s primarily worked up in the zone, which has proven effective for him and other high octane fastball pitchers in the past.
Other than that, there’s really not much else to say about his heater. No news is good news in this instance. I’m actually pleasantly surprised to see his velocity and command of the pitch strong so early. I thought we might have seen something akin to Dellin Betances, who was a few notches down in his return before he hurt his achilles (sigh).
Here’s where things get interesting. Perhaps this may be an instance of jumping to conclusions too soon, but it looks like Severino may be purposely varying his slider’s velocity and movement. First, a look at pitch speed:
That’s resulted in an 85.0 MPH average on the offering, which is down from 88.1 a year ago. Last year, only 4.2 percent of his sliders were 85 or slower.
From my very, very, amateur attempt at #analysis, it looks like Severino generates more horizontal movement, or sweeping action, on his slider as he slows it down:
It’s not the strongest correlation…but it’s something? I don’t know. Someone smarter than me should check me on this. Seems interesting, nonetheless. Now, for the visuals:
Looks sorta different, no? That said, it’s worth pointing out that Severino is actually averaging just about the same horizontal movement on his slider as last year. Perhaps he’s not able to get more movement (vs. last season) on it by slowing it down, but he’s at least able to manipulate the pitch’s shape.
Anyway, I’d call his potential slider variations something to watch for. Could be fun if Sevy truly is trying to throw opposing hitters another wrinkle.
Like his fastball, Severino’s changeup looks pretty consistent with prior years. Again, that’s a good thing.
Since the 25 year-old debuted in the majors, his changeup has averaged between 88.1 MPH and 88.8 MPH. Right now, he’s at the upper limit of that range, which seems to bode well. A little more separation between it and his fastball would be nice, especially since his fastball is a tad slower at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to be a huge deal.
Interestingly enough, compared to 2018, Severino’s changeup is generating more drop and run away from lefties. He’s added two inches of drop and two inches of run to date.
If command tells us anything about his feel for the pitch, then Severino’s had a really good grasp of it so far. He’s really pounded the corner down and away from lefties, which is exactly where it should be.
One last note: 24 of his 27 changeups have been thrown to lefties. He hasn’t been shy about throwing them to righties in the past; he threw 46 percent of them to right handers last season. I wouldn’t make anything of the split between batter handedness yet, it’s way too small of a sample.
Overall, there’s a lot to be excited about here. It’s been a huge bummer not to watch Severino pitch all season, but it’s better late than never. And while it’s been great to see him blank the Angels and Blue Jays, I’m even more encouraged after digging into his repertoire. All three pitches look pretty sharp thus far, and it appears like he may have added something to the mix with his slider(s). Time will tell if that’s truly the case, but ultimately, Sevy’s back and I couldn’t be happier.