While Kevin Newman has struggled mightily at the plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season he has made huge strides defensively
There is no denying the offensive woes of Kevin Newman with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. In 489 plate appearances Newman has been one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Newman has hit for a .227/.264/.316 slash line to go with a woeful .089 isolated slugging (ISO) and 56 wRC+.
This continues a career of offensive struggles for Newman. He owns a lifetime .259/.309/.358 slash line to go with an .099 ISO and a wRC+ of 76 in 1289 career PAs. Outside of an outlier of a 2019 season, Newman has always been a well below average hitter in his MLB career.
While Newman has often times struggled offensively, unfortunately, he has also struggled defensively for much of his career. To Newman’s credit, however, he spent the offseason working to improve defensively at shortstop. This season, these improvements have shown as Newman has made big defensive strides at shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Entering the 2021 season Newman owned a lifetime -14 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), -3.0 dWAR and a -11 Outs Above Average (OAA) at shortstop. This season, Newman has turned into a completely different defender. Newman owns a +6 DRS, +10.6 dWAR and an OAA of +2 at shortstop this season.
A big reason for the improvement from Newman has come from him improving with moving laterally. According to Baseball Savant, Newman combined for a lateral movement of -7 during his first three MLB seasons. This season Newman’s lateral movement has been worth +2 runs saved.
Newman has also done an excellent job not committing errors this season. While errors and fielding percentage are far from the best way to judge a defender, Newman’s .993 fielding percentage this season is a new career high.
Newman is one of four Pirate defenders making a push to win a Gold Glove Award this season. We have previously discussed how Bryan Reynolds should win a Gold Glove in center field and Ke’Bryan Hayes at third base. Additionally, Jacob Stallings has been the best defensive catcher in the National League this season.
The defensive strides of Newman this season have made him a legitimate Gold Glove Award candidate in the National League. The glove work of Newman has likely saved him from being a a candidate to be taken off the 40-man roster this offseason. Despite his offensive woes, due to the defensive strides Newman has made the odds appear to be high that he will start the 2022 season still the starting shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.