Sean Newcomb had one of the most disappointing seasons in 2020, but I’m not ready to give up on the 27-year-old just yet. The lefty was optioned to the alternate minor league site after only 13.2 innings following an eight-run disaster over 1.1 innings in a loss to Philly on August 10th. But even though that fourth start was painful to watch, Newcomb wasn’t that much of a lost cause over his first three starts.
July 26 @ NYM: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 1 K, 2 HBP (82 Pitches)
July 31st v NYM: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 ER, 4 K (79 Pitches)
August 5th v TOR: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, 4 K (92 Pitches)
The pitch count is what’s really alarming to me. It’s no secret Sean’s walk troubles have been what’s kept him in the doghouse for most of his career, and he’s been working on it ever since he’s gotten to Atlanta. He’s shown signs of dominance at times — he had a 3.16 ERA last season, mostly working out of the bullpen (51 bullpen appearances, 4 starts). I advocated calling Newcomb up to fill Josh Tomlin‘s role in my perfect offseason plan, and he’s given me a good reason why. Look at his pen stats in 2019.
May 2019 — 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K (10 appearances)
June 2019 — 3 ER (All in one outing), 1 BB, 12 K (10 appearances)
July 2019 — 3 ER (All in one outing), 5 BB, 11 K (9 appearances)
August 2019 — 11 ER (6 over 2 outings), 8 BB, 11 K (12 appearances)
September 2019 — 2 ER, 4 BB (3 in one outing), 11 K (10 appearances)
Only 21 ER over the span of five months is pretty darn good for a relief pitcher. Take out a bumpy August, and Newcomb gave up ten ER over 39 appearances. If you take out two bad outings in June & July, Newcomb only gave up four ER over 37 appearances out of the bullpen in 2019. His walks were way down, and his frame, combined with his pitch repertoire, gave him a massive advantage in relief situations. The most important thing is that there are many outliers here — most of the damage he gave up came in bursts. Newcomb was finally looking consistent.
With Atlanta looking to save as much money as possible to keep Marcell Ozuna and potentially add to the rotation, making Newcomb a full-time reliever seems like common sense. Combine the financial side with the fact that he’s now being pushed by Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, and Kyle Wright — it’s time for him to sink or swim. The team gave up fan-favorite Andrelton Simmons to acquire Newcomb. They will never look back on that trade as a win, but hopefully, Newk can find his place as a lefty specialist out of the pen and continue to provide some value. The NLCS proved you can never have enough pitching, and this team needs Newcomb to step up in one way or another.