Closing Time: Luis Severino's avalanche of strikeouts

Luis Severino keeps blowing hitters away
Luis Severino keeps blowing hitters away

Let’s start today’s entry with a hat tip all of you. Yahoo Nation answered the bell on Luis Severino. You saw signature significance, and you acted. In one day, his Yahoo ownership chased from 32 percent to 58 percent. Soon enough, he might be too good to talk about here — unless something goes wrong.

Signature significance is a common theme in this column. While large samples are always more useful than short samples, we understand fantasy baseball — especially in the modern age — is a game of quick reactions. He who waits for proof is usually trampled by the better owners. This is not your father’s fantasy baseball. We’re not playing chess by mail any longer.

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What signature significance means is this: a small sample can carry significant weight if the magnitude of the performance is notable. This can work in positive and negative ways — Byron Buxton’s beleaguered owners know all about that.

Severino was terrific in his previous start, an 11-strikeout parade against Tampa Bay, and he backed it up Tuesday night. Although Severino took a loss to the White Sox, his final line is welcome in any fantasy league: 8 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. The Yankees hurt him with some defensive lapses — one key double play wasn’t turned — and Chicago did crank a couple of home runs.

The key to Severino is not sweating the current 4.05 ERA. When you see 27 strikeouts in 20 innings — and against just two walks — you act. When you see a WHIP of 0.80, you race to the wire. The swinging strike rate has jumped nicely. When you see video like this, you get excited.

If you were to simply add any pitcher with double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games, you wouldn’t be wrong very often. Severino’s getting ahead of the count, and burying batters with his leverage pitches. Remember all the promise we fell in love with in 2015? It’s time for the 23-year-old to cash in.

AL East life is never easy for a pitcher, but we’ll make the best of it. The Red Sox and Orioles come calling the next two games. Severino will be in several of my lineups, nonetheless. Swing-and-miss power stuff, that can work anywhere.

• Say this for Dusty Baker, he’s not masking his true feelings. He’s not speaking in code.

“We got to do something to shore up our closer situation, because this ain’t working,” Baker conceded Tuesday night.

Baker spoke these words after a 3-1 victory at Atlanta, which is telling (remember Pete Mackanin doing that on opening day?). Blake Treinen allowed four of five men to reach in the ninth — throwing just six strikes on 16 pitches — before Shawn Kelley bailed him out. Kelley, to his credit, hit the zone with 10 of 11 pitches.

[Andy Behrens helps you replace Starling Marte]

It’s not a bullpen covered in glory. Treinen’s control issues likely cost him the job. Kelley and Joe Blanton both have tidy K//BB ratios, but they’ve allowed six homers between them. That’s stressful to any coaching staff. Perhaps Koda Glover can wriggle into the mix.

Although Kelley might not be durable enough to handle the workload of a traditional closer, he’s the add here — if you need to make one. Glover would be my second choice. And there’s a reasonable chance Washington will ultimately solve this situation with a trade, down the road.

Is the timing right for Avisail Garcia?
Is the timing right for Avisail Garcia?

• Sometimes it’s hard to remember Avisail Garcia is just 25. He was merely a 20-year-old pup when the Tigers summoned him back in 2012. He’s been mostly a teaser, not a pleaser, during his six-year run. He’s never hit more than 13 home runs, never pushed past the .780 OPS marker.

There isn’t an obvious explanation to Garcia’s sizzling start: .440/.481/.680, three homers. He’s walking a little less, striking out a little less. His hard-hit rate is about the same. Obviously his BABIP is through the roof, you don’t need anyone to tell you that. Outlier surface stats come with outlier luck stats, somewhere — that’s basic math. There’s no “eureka” moment to be had, though some can’t see that connection.

Because of Garcia’s age, pedigree, and job security — the White Sox need to play him — it’s reasonable to hold here, see where the story goes. Sometimes the light goes on for a prospect, a year or two after we expect it. When plausible upside is present, we make room on the back of our rosters.

Occam’s Razor is another concept fantasy owners need to recognize and apply. It’s a way of saying the simplest explanation of something is often the best explanation. Applied to fantasy, it suggests we don’t need complicated reasons for everything we do. Sometimes a very logical yet basic explanation will get us where we need to go.

Consider Mitch Moreland, who we mentioned in passing a day ago. Moreland was part of Boston’s hit parade Tuesday at Toronto, posting a 5-1-3-3 line. The Red Sox rapped out 15 hits, scored eight runs in the win. Moreland’s seasonal slash is up to .358/.443/.604.

Obviously Moreland isn’t anywhere near this good — his best year in Texas, 2015, finished at .278/.330/.482 with 23 homers. But Moreland is good enough to hold down a job in Boston, and anyone in the middle of this loaded lineup is likely to be productive. The four batters ahead of Moreland on Tuesday are all OBP kings — no one under .356 — and Dustin Pedroia wasn’t even in the lineup.

Fenway Park isn’t a good spot for lefty power, but it’s a terrific home for offense. Fenway provided a 16-percent float to scoring over the last three years (per the Bill James Handbook), and lefty batting average was boosted by 13 percent. I suspect Moreland is headed towards a career year; he’s still just 31, and his increased walk rate — even this early in the year — is a good indicator.

Don’t overthink it, thinkers. Moreland is owned in just 20 percent of Yahoo leagues, and that number is far too low. Go where the fun is, go where the runs are.

• For most of the spring, we’ve pushed you towards Chris Devenski. At this point, there’s nothing left to push. Either you grabbed him or you didn’t.

Maybe teammate Brad Peacock is making the leap, too. Peacock, like Devenski, is a converted starter who’s now working in the bullpen. He’s been lights out in 7.2 innings (1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K), even picked up a couple of wins.

Obviously non-closing relievers have sliding value, depending on format. In a few of my leagues where I’m merely looking for ratio-smoothing options, I’ve added Peacock. Baseball history is overflowing with mediocre starters who reinvented themselves in the bullpen. You can make the add in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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