In the recap this morning, I hinted at a potential change in Luis Severino’s approach over his last few starts. He’s been much lower on strikeouts and higher on GB contact, and he made a comment about being more of a pitcher than a thrower before his last outing against Toronto in reference to that one bad outing earlier in the month. It all adds up to a guy who’s starting to realize the differences between what does and doesn’t work when you go from Triple-A to the Majors and adjusting his approach accordingly.
A quick look at the differences in pitch usage provide some supporting evidence to this theory. Here’s the breakdown of pitches over Severino’s first 8 Major League starts, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (Brooks hasn’t added their pitch data from yesterday’s start):
TL reads more cutters and 2-seamers than Brooks, but it’s a real heavy dose of fastball-slider with a small side salad of changeups. Compare that to his pitch usage in his last 2 starts:
That’s a little more balanced. About 10% fewer fastballs, a few more sliders, and an over 7% increase in changeups. That certainly fits the narrative of a pitcher who is becoming more mindful of navigating lineups multiple times and mixing things up to keep hitters honest and off-balance, and I could see the on-field results fitting in with this change in approach as well. The changeup is the weakest of Severino’s 3 pitches, but more of them mixed in and fewer fastballs to hit would explain the increase in weaker contact and could explain the decrease in strikeouts. Severino’s fastball is a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch when he locates it well.
Of course, all of this could be nothing more than overreading a small sample size. Part of what inspired me to look this up is the fact that Severino threw 6 shutout innings yesterday. But let’s be honest, he’s probably not going to get 4 double plays in 1 start again this season, maybe never again in his career. If one or 2 of those plays don’t happen yesterday and the White Sox put a few more hits together and multiple runs on the board, suddenly Severino’s performance and related potential changes aren’t as big of a talking point.
What we know based on these numbers is that it appears as though he is starting to make some meaningful changes to how he pitches to Major League lineups and that’s a good thing. What we need to see is him sustain this approach and find a way to bring back that swing-and-miss strikeout ability that he showed over his first 8 starts. Continue reading Quick Hit: Severino’s Changing Approach?