If the Playoffs Started Today, Who Pitches?

Guest author Mike Rook delivers this piece:

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When the season started, the Yankees had to believe that Luis Severino was everything that he was expected to be, and for the first half of the season he was.  That is, until he wasn’t.  

Over his last five starts, Luis Severino has only recorded one win and has given up 40 hits in 22 innings.  This has resulted in 24 runs. This is unacceptable. Larry Rothschild, the Yankees Pitching Coach, states that it's not due to him being injured or fatigued. Rothschild stated that it is simply that Severino has lost command of his fastball.  

Experts say that a hitting an upper 90’s fastball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. What that statement should read is "hitting a well-placed upper 90’s fastball..." Since Severino still has good velocity, it seems that his fastballs are not well placed.  This results in what is the equivalent of a batting practice fastball.  

Yesterday Severino pitched better, but throwing 100 pitches in five innings is far from being fixed. He did throw some devastating sliders on his way to 8 strikeouts. But, one good start against a team who is struggling does not make me ready to declare him "all better."  Still, it is hopefully a beginning to an awesome stretch run.  Severino will get another chance to declare himself well on Friday in Baltimore.

So, one of two things must happen: Either Severino ultimately fixes whatever is wrong and goes back to being dominant or the Yankees have to reconsider who will be starting the Wild Card game and how they should line up their rotation for the ALDS should they win that game. 

For the sake of argument, let's say that the Wild Card Game was tomorrow.  I think the best choice is J.A. Happ.   

Happ has been nothing short of brilliant since joining the Yankees.  In his three starts with the Yankees he is 3-0 and has only given up 4 runs on 8 hits over 19 innings. Many said that it was an ok, but not great move picking up J.A.Happ. This guy was an all-star this year and has lowered his ERA to 3.86 since joining the Yankees. Since 2015 J.A. Happ’s ERA against the Red Sox is 1.78. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Yankees are going to catch the Red Sox and win the Division, but don't forget they still play them six more times before the end of the season. It would be nice to see J.A. Happ win a couple of those. 

If Happ is the wildcard starter, if the Yankees win the game... then what? 

Enter Lance Lynn! 

Every sportswriter that I read said that Lynn was just an upgrade over recently departed Adam Warren for middle relief.  To this I replied “Are you kidding me?” Look at Lynn's career body of work. He has never had a losing season.  For his career he is 80-55 with an ERA of 3.52. Now these aren't Hall of Fame stats by any means, but they are solid numbers over 7 years, 5 of which he has reached double digit win totals. He is going to throw an occasional bad inning, but he has thrown 170 innings or more in all but his rookie season.  

This year he was unsigned until late so he didn’t get a full spring training. Combine that with his playing for the Twins, who are not so great defensively, and it explains his poor start. Lynn got off slowly, but he has been very good since coming over to the Yankees. 

Here is how I see the playoff rotation shaking out if the Wild-card game was tomorrow. 

Wild Card Game: J.A. Happ 

ADLS Game One: CC Sabathia 

ALDS Game Two: Lance Lynn 

ALDS Game Three: Luis Severino 

ALDS Game Four: Masahiro Tanaka (If needed) 

I like Tanaka in Game Four because I feel he is a big game guy (just look at last season's playoffs).   If he is not needed, it lines up Tanaka and Happ as a one-two punch in the ACLS or even for Happ to start game one.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.