Blue Jays: Sean Reid-Foley takes on a struggling Luis Severino

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 26: Starting pitcher Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the fourth inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 26, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Yankees won 6-0. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 26: Starting pitcher Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the fourth inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 26, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Yankees won 6-0. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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On Saturday, August 18, the Blue Jays will play the second of a three-game set against the New York Yankees. Sean Reid-Foley will toe the rubber for the Jays with Luis Severino as his opposite number.

Luis Severino couldn’t be stopped coming into his last start against the Blue Jays. The Yankees ace owned a 1.98 ERA entering the start, and left with an ERA of 2.12. However, despite looking like a sure Cy Young candidate, the wheels fell off the righty after his start in Toronto.

While pitching against the Jays in that game, the right-hander allowed five hits, two walks, and three earned runs over five complete innings. This wouldn’t have been that bad for any other starter, but it was just the third time all season he had given up three earned runs.

This start occurred on July 7, beginning a terrible two-month rut for the Yankees hurler. Through five starts in July, the right-handed hurler allowed a terrible 6.58 ERA. As well, in three starts this month, he has coughed up a 5.94 ERA.

Even though the pitcher was untouchable through the first half of the season, he has posted a horrendous 7.96 ERA in the second half. For reference, before the break, the New York pitcher had allowed a great 2.31 ERA.

All told, the 24-year-old’s numbers are much less daunting this time around. In 25 starts he has posted a 3.27 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 1.127 WHIP, and 133 ERA+. In total, he has still been worth an excellent 4.1 fWAR.

Severino keeps his pitch selection quite simple, as many Blue Jays fans are aware. This year he has alternated between a four-seam fastball, slider, and change-up.

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The young starter has fired home four-seam fastballs 50.44% of the time this season. The heater is very fast, maintaining an average velocity of 98.11 mph. Despite its impressive speed, batters have hit the ball surprisingly hard, producing a 32.04%-line drive rate. As well, these liners have turned into base-hits, as the pitch has surrendered a .275 BAA and .454 SLGA.

Severino has thrown his slider 37.05% of the time this season. The slider is hard, averaging a speed of 88.48 mph. While he has struggled as a whole, the pitcher’s breaking ball has not failed him. The pitch has still produced whiffs at a good rate of 37.47% of swings and has posted a .181 BAA with 99 strikeouts.

Severino has changed speeds on batters 12.47% of the time this season. The off-speed pitch is, like most things that the pitcher throws, incredibly hard—maintaining an average velocity of 88.10 mph. However, batters have whiffed on just 22.79% of swings against the change—while hitting for a .261 BAA. To be fair, the off-speed offering has allowed a good.377 SLGA, as well.

A key difference between this year and last year for the young starter is his reduction in ground ball production. Last year he pitched to a great 50.6% ground ball rate. However, this year he has produced worm burners at a pedestrian 41.9%.

Even more concerning, this lost rate of ground balls has converted into line drives. The Yankees hurler has allowed line drives at a concerning 24.3% this season. Last season, he allowed line-shots just 18.8% of the time. Finally, his hard-hit rate has also jumped about five percent (28.5% à 33.2%) since last year.

While these numbers are concerning for the starter, his strikeout and walk numbers are certainly not concerning. Through 25 starts he has produced a 27.7% K-rate and 10.09 K/9. Even better, he has limited walks to a great 5.9% BB-rate and 2.16 BB/9.

In a fair amount of previous experience, the Blue Jays have been decent against the Dominican Republic native. The best on the team, Justin Smoak, has seven hits—including a double and two home runs—in 18 at-bats against Severino. As well, Kevin Pillar has gone 5-for-16 with two home runs in the past. However, Russell Martin has just one hit in 10 at-bats against the right-handed hurler.

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The Blue Jays will have a chance to jump on a struggling starter Saturday afternoon. The righty has not been the same pitcher after the break. The Blue Jays should key in on the four-seam fastball—it has been thrown often and has not fared well. Also, Sean Reid-Foley will look to build off of his first career start in the bigs.