Boone should go with Severino
This choice might catch people by surprise. After all, Severino has struggled during the second half of the season. Starting him against the Athletics comes with significant risk.
Part of our rational here is that Boone should be trying to set the Yankees up to win the World Series. Winning the Wild Card game is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean anything if the team can’t follow it up by winning the Division Series against the Red Sox. Starting Severino against Oakland puts New York in a better position to knock off Boston.
Giving Severino the start against the Athletics will allow Boone to line up Happ and Tanaka to make the first two starts in Fenway. In particular, Happ has a strong history of pitching really well against the Red Sox. Even if you think he’s a better choice to pitch against Oakland, it’s not worth sacrificing his ability to start the opener at Boston. The Yankees will really struggle to win the Division Series if they can’t steal the opener in Beantown.
Even without that consideration, starting Severino might still be the right move. He is the only member of the staff who has the stuff to completely silence Oakland’s offense. Severino also has an ace’s mentality. No matter how he’s thrown the ball lately, he’ll be desperate to get the start in the Wild Card game. That’s worth something to Boone even if it can’t be quantified.
In the end, we believe Happ gives the Yankees a slightly better chance of beating Oakland than Severino. However, Happ gives Boone’s team a significantly better shot at winning a potential Game 1 in Boston. That’s why Severino should get his chance to pitch like the ace he was during the first half of the season.