Yankees Wild Card Game Starting Pitcher–Happ, Severino or Tanaka


Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Jeff Lombardi Jr., Sports Editor

With the announcement of the starting pitcher for the New York Yankees in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card game showdown with the Oakland Athletics impending, the candidacy has been narrowed to three contestants: LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Luis Severino and RHP Masahiro Tanaka.

During this afternoon’s Chicago Cubs/Milwaukee Brewers National League Central tiebreaker game, it was announced that Yankees skipper Aaron Boone revealed to former ESPN colleague Karl Ravech that he knows which pitcher will take the mound on Wednesday’s one-game playoff.

“I know who’s starting. My lips are sealed,” Boone wrote in a text to Ravech.

With that, there are still plenty of Yankee fans who will lose sleep tonight over who will toe the slab for New York.

J.A. Happ

2018 Regular Season (TOR/NYY): 31 GS, 15  177 2/3 IP, 193 K, 51 BB, 150 H, 3.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .225 BAA, 17-6 W-L

Since July 29: 11 GS, eight QS, 63 2/3 IP, 63 K, 16 BB, 51 H, 2.69 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, .217 BAA, 7-0 W-L

Last three starts: one QS, 17 IP, 20 K, 7 BB, 13 H, 2.65 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .210 BAA, 1-0 W-L

2018 at Yankee Stadium (TOR/NYY): seven GS, 39 2/3 IP, 39 K, 12 BB, 34 H, 2.72 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .227 BAA, 4-0 W-L

2018 vs. Oakland: Sept. 4. (Road), Won 5-1, 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, 20 BF, ND

Batter vs. Pitcher 2018 Oakland A’s: 6-28 H-AB, one double, two HR, four RBI, three runs scored, eight K, one BB, .214 BAA, .267 OBP, .464 SLG

Batter vs. Pitcher Career: 30-115 H-AB, five doubles, four HR, 18 RBI, 24 K, six BB, .261 BAA, .304 OBP, .409 SLG

Key Hot Matchup’s: Marcus Semien (8-19, .421 BA, two HR, five RBI, one BB), Jed Lowrie (6-19, .316 BA, one double), Jonathan Lucroy (7-21, .333 BA, four doubles, five RBIs)

Key Cold Matchup’s: Khris Davis (0-7, .000 BA, three K), Josh Phegley (3-16, .188 avg, four K), Mark Canha (2-15, .133 BA, three K)

Postseason Career: 10 appearances, three GS, 19 1/3 IP, 19 K, 10 BB, 25 H, 3.72 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, .307 BAA, 1-1 W-L

J.A. Happ
Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill

Happ has been nothing short of what Brian Cashman ordered when New York’s general manager acquired the 35-year-old southpaw in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on July 26. While Happ has been the most consistent starter for New York in his time with the club, and probably should be the game’s starting pitcher, he just doesn’t scream out “hired gun” like Justin Verlander for last season’s Houston Astros, Cliff Lee for the Texas Rangers in 2010 or even current Yankee staff-mate, CC Sabathia for Milwaukee in 2008.  He checks off the next three boxes with strong numbers at Yankee Stadium, while limiting potential Oakland opponents in both a small and large sample size, while boasting a win over the club less than one month ago. However, his relatively thin postseason resume–though respectable, might be a scare to the Bronx faithful, especially those who remember Nick Swisher’s solo home run off Happ, then of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the 2009 Fall Classic.

Luis Severino

2018 Regular Season: 32 GS, 17 QS, 191 1/3 IP, 220 K, 46 BB, 173 H, 3.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .238 BAA, 19-8 W-L

Since July 29: 10 GS, three QS, 53 2/3 IP, 63 K, 13 BB, 57 H, 4.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .265 BAA, 5-4 W-L, 6-4 NYY W-L

Last three starts: one QS, 17 2/3 IP, 18 K, four BB, 14 H, 2.04 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .212 BAA, 2-1 W-L, 2-1 NYY W-L

2018 at Yankee Stadium: 15 GS, 92 IP, 110 K, 22 BB, 74 H, 2.74 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .217 BAA, 10-2 W-L

2018 vs. Oakland: May 13. (Home), Won 6-2, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 K, 2 BB, 25 BF, W — Sept. 5. (Road), Lost 8-2, 2 2/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 15 BF, L

Batter vs. Pitcher 2018 Oakland A’s: 11-39 H-AB, three doubles, five RBI, seven runs scored, 12 K, 3 BB, .282 BAA, .333 OBP, .359 SLG

Batter vs. Pitcher Career: 16-59 H-AB, three doubles, one HR, nine RBI, 15 K, five BB, .271 BAA, .328 OBP, .373 SLG

Key Hot Matchups: Jed Lowrie (6-11, .549 BA, 3 RBI)

Key Cold Matchups: Khris Davis (1-9, .111 BA, four K), Matt Olsen (1-5, .200 BA, three K)

Postseason Career: four appearances, four GS, 16 IP, 12 K, eight BB, 13 H, 5.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .216 BAA, 1-1 W-L

Yankees pitcher Luis Severino celebrates against the Indians at
Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

After a strong 2017 in which the then 23-year-old rebounded from what many would categorize as a “sophomore slump” Luis Severino entered the 2018 season as the undisputed ace of the Yankees pitching staff.  With a 14-2 mark to go along with a 2.31 ERA and 144 punchouts over 128 1/3 innings in the season’s first half, Severino had immersed himself in the mid-year Cy Young Award discussion. In the time since, Severino has posed as a mockery to the term ace, hitting an overwhelming roadblock over the final two and a half months to the tune of a 5.57 ERA over 12 starts, winning just five of 11 decisions.  Despite his second-half struggles, Severino partially maintained his statistical hierarchy among American League starting pitchers, finishing in the top-10 in strikeouts (8th), wins (3rd), wins above replacement (8th), WHIP (10th) and ERA (9th).  Regardless of his struggles, and the memory of his 2017 Wild Card game start in which he did not make it out of the first inning looming, it would be a shock to anyone involved with the organization from the pre-season intentions of the front office management down to the fans to not see Severino on the mound Wednesday night.

Masahiro Tanaka

2018 Regular Season: 27 GS, 14 QS, 156 IP, 159 K, 35 BB, 141 H, 3.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .240 BAA, 12-6 W-L

Since July 29: 10 GS, five QS, 57 2/3 IP, 59 K, 10 BB, 63 H, 3.59 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .278 BAA, 3-4 W-L, 4-6 NYY W-L

Last three starts: one QS, 14 IP, 15 K, 3 BB, 18 H, 5.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .300 BAA, 1-1 W-L, 1-2 NYY W-L

2018 at Yankee Stadium: 12 GS, 70 1/3 IP, 68 K, 18 BB, 74 H, 4.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .272 BAA, 5-5 W-L

2018 vs. Oakland: N/A

Batter vs. Pitcher 2018 Oakland A’s: Renato Nunez, 1-2 (BAL/TEX/OAK)

Batter vs. Pitcher Career: 15-54 H-AB, four doubles, one HR, four RBI, 22 K, one BB, .278 BAA, .291 OBP, .407 SLG

Key Hot Matchups: Matt Chapman (2-2, 1.000 BA, one double), Jonathan Lucroy (3-6, .500 BA, one RBI), Matt Joyce (3-8, .375 BA, one HR, one RBI), Jed Lowrie (3-9, .333 BA, one double, one RBI)

Key Cold Matchups: Khris Davis (1-12, .0.83 BA, seven K)

Postseason Career: four appearances, four GS, 25 IP, 21 K, six BB, 14 H, 1.44 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .161 BAA, 2-2 W-L

Photo Credits: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The undisputed third leg of among those considered, Tanaka has been a model of consistency since debuting with New York in 2014, averaging 165 innings over 26 starts, while winning games at a remarkable .653 clip.  Tanaka was the choice for the Yankees in their 2015 Wild Card game, surrendering two solo home runs in a 3-0 defeat on the hands of the Houston Astros.  The long ball has always been problematic for Tanaka throughout his career, allowing 122 in 132 career starts and 25 or more in three of his five seasons. This is a real area of concern pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Yankee Stadium in a game where one swing can make or break a season.  With that being said, Tanaka was masterful in last year’s postseason, securing a win in an elimination contest in Game 3 of the ALDS against Cleveland with seven shutout innings before leading New York to a Game 5 win in the ALCS over Houston with another 21 outs of scoreless baseball making him an ideal candidate to start one of the first two games of the ALDS against Boston should New York prevail.