A man who seems to have been forgotten by fans — Sean Newcomb had a brief return to the club this past weekend but was optioned for last night’s starter, Touki Toussaint.
Newcomb hasn’t had a fun 2020. The team was quick to yank him back to Gwinnett after 13.2 innings in which he surrendered 17 earned runs and six walks in Atlanta, but this is nothing new for the southpaw. Newcomb has always been hit or miss. Sometimes he looks like Jon Lester, and other times he pitches like a career AAAA player. It’s possible he does not see the field for the Braves again in 2020, but his postseason performance in his young career is hard to ignore.
Newcomb 2018 Postseason: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Newcomb 2019 Postseason: 3.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Newcomb was crucial in 2019, holding it down for an out before Swanson and Duvall clutched up to give Atlanta a 3-1 win in Game 3. His career regular-season and postseason numbers are night and day.
Newcomb Career: 346 IP, 4.16 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 8.3 H/9, 1.42 WHIP
Newcomb Postseason Career: 8.1 IP, 1.08 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.2 H/9, 0.600 WHIP
Obviously, these sample sizes are vastly different. However, with little option of proven starters on the Braves, Newcomb should get a look before the season ends to see how the team feels about him. With Cole Hamels and Max Fried set to return, I’m not advocating for Newcomb to start. I’m not even yelling for him to make the roster with no work before the playoffs start. What I am hoping for is that he can get a few bullpen looks late in the year to see if he’s sharp.
If Newcomb can cut the walks and give the team some good innings, I think his track record shows he deserves an opportunity. The lack of playoff experience on this roster is alarming.
Ian Anderson will likely make his first postseason start, and hopefully he’s the guy we’ve seen so far. Mike Soroka was excellent in his inaugural October action; maybe Anderson will give the Braves some of the same. We saw Max Fried used as a leverage guy in the 2018 and 2019 playoffs. Perhaps Newcomb could take over that role in 2020.
Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, it is very likely someone in the starting rotation falters early in the playoffs. Having a player like Newcomb with experience — no matter how limited — could be more useful than let’s say Kyle Wright. However, considering the Braves continue to give Huascar Ynoa opportunities and just called up Jasseel De La Cruz, Newcomb may no longer be in the cards.