By Bryan Hoch | MLB.com | November 14th, 2017
ORLANDO, Fla. — Luis Severino’s year started without a guaranteed place in the Yankees’ rotation, but thanks to an electric fastball, biting curveball and improving changeup, it concluded with the right-hander enjoying the finest season by a homegrown Yankees starter since Ron Guidry.
That excellent campaign placed the 23-year-old among the finalists for the American League Cy Young Award, joining the Indians’ Corey Kluber and Chris Sale of the Red Sox among the circuit’s top arms. Even if Severino falls shy of the hardware, he has the Yankees excited about what is still to come. The Cy Young Awards in both leagues will be announced on Wednesday during an MLB Network special that starts at 6 p.m. ET.
“He’s been dominant. He’s attacking hitters,” Aaron Judge said. “He’s always getting in the good counts. Every time I look up there, it’s always 0-1, 0-2. He’s never falling behind a lot of hitters. When you’ve got his repertoire and his stuff and you’re getting ahead of guys like that, good things will happen.”
Pitching in his first full Major League season, Severino went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 31 starts, holding opponents to a .208 batting average and a miniscule .603 OPS. He ranked third in the AL in ERA and WHIP (1.04), fourth in strikeouts (230) and ninth in innings (193 1/3).
Severino’s 10.71 K/9 rate was the highest in Yankees history, while his opponents’ batting average was the lowest since Guidry held hitters to a .193 mark in his Cy Young Award-winning 1978 season. Severino’s ERA was the lowest by a Yankee since David Cone (2.82) and Andy Pettitte (2.88) in 1997.
“I’m proud of the work that I did in the offseason, the work that I did with my pitching coach [Larry Rothschild] that helped me be what I am,” Severino said. “And I’m proud of myself and the team that we have.”
Maintaining his velocity deep into starts, it was not uncommon to see Severino pumping fastballs at 99-100 mph in the late innings. His 17 starts of one or no earned runs tied the Nationals’ Max Scherzer for the Major League lead and were the most by a Yankee since Guidry had 21 such starts in 1978.
“I want to get out there and go as long as I possibly can in the game, and then the relievers can do their job,” Severino said.
A first-time All-Star, Severino owes some of his success to his offseason sessions with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Having vowed to return to the starting rotation after his 2016 performance bounced him from the rotation to the Minors and the bullpen, Severino called upon the three-time Cy Young Award winner for a series of instructive sessions in the Dominican Republic.
“He told me that if I change my mechanics a little bit, I’ll be more consistent in the strike zone,” Severino said. “That’s what I did.”
Though Severino stumbled in his postseason debut, recording just one out in the AL Wild Card Game against the Twins, he recovered to strike out nine over seven innings while notching the win in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Indians.
“He’s been pretty darn good this year, one of the top two or three right-handed starters in the game,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. “He’s a guy we love being behind.”
Severino was removed after four innings in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros due to an injury concern, then permitted three runs in 4 2/3 innings while taking the loss in ALCS Game 6.
“Every time they give me the ball, I just go over there and have fun,” Severino said. “It’s been a great season.”