Kevin Newman Yet Another Example of Pirates Mismanagement of Players

Photo credit: Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review

Kevin Newman is proving all of the haters wrong by showing he should have been the Pittsburgh Pirates leadoff hitter his entire big league career.  

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It has long been known that some of the Pittsburgh Pirates issues have been with the development and/or mismanagement of their own players.  In addition to never spending for proven big league talent, it's been a trend that a lot of the talent they do have, doesn't quite pan out.  Then we see these same players go to other teams and find success.  There are enough examples now that it can be considered a trend.

It appears, after the past two Pirates games that this may have been the case with current Pirate, Kevin Newman.  With several veteran players returning from the Injured List, including Newman, the Pirates have had to restructure their starting lineup.  This has led to us seeing Newman bat in the leadoff spot two nights in a row.  In those games, he went 5 for 10 with a double, two RBI, and a run scored.  Good for a 1.100 OPS.

Now, obviously two games, and 10 at-bats, is a very small sample size.  Nothing can really be determined from that.  However, these two games are not the full career sample size we have for Newman in regards to batting leadoff.

Newman's best season of his career so far has been 2019.  He batted .308 with an .800 OPS in 531 plate appearances.  In that 2019 season, his lion's share of at-bats were in the leadoff spot.  In fact, 66% of his plate appearances that season were from the leadoff spot.  

In 350 plate appearances leading off in 2019, Newman batted .328 with an .875 OPS, drew 19 walks and hit 11 homeruns.  That's fantastic for any leadoff hitter, but is especially great relative to what we have seen from Newman since.

Unfortunately, in the following 2020 season, Newman was given just 12 plate appearances in the leadoff spot.  Good for just 7% of his plate appearances that season.  And it showed.  In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Newman saw his average dip from .308 in 2019 to .224 in 2020.  A huge drop off.  He also had just a .556 OPS in 2020, which was considerably worse than the previous season.

In 2021, Newman saw an equally poor season as 2020, while also spending a similarly low percentage of his plate appearances in the leadoff spot.  In 554 plate appearances in 2021, Newman was given just 46 opportunities at the plate leading off.  Good for just 8% of his plate appearances.

Now, he did not make the most of these opportunities, batting just 4 for 46, with an abysmal .196 OPS.  However, he was given just 11 games of a 162-game season to show he could be as good of a leadoff hitter as he was in 2019.  With how long a regular season of baseball is, there is not much that can be taken from an 11 game stretch.  I'd have like to have seen Newman given more opportunity to get back to his 2019 form.

So now it may be too late.  Newman is less than 20 days away from his 29th birthday, which is considered old in today's MLB.  There are options in the minor leagues nipping at his heels for the second base spot, and I don't see him taking back the full-time shortstop position from young phenom, Oneil Cruz.  

Had the Pirates given Newman the opportunity to be an everyday leadoff hitter in '20 and '21, who knows what could have been.  Now he'll probably join another team and the long list of players who go on to play better in their post-Pirates career.  Chalk it up as further mismanagement by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  *sigh*