The Braves bullpen has been a work in progress all season. Sean Newcomb, since moving to the bullpen after a rocky start to his season, has been the bright spot of the Braves bullpen. Is he the X-factor the Braves will need for their playoff stretch?
The postseason can be dominated by great pitching. We’ve seen in the past from starters like Madison Bumgarner, who carried the Giants to one of their championships. In other years, guys like Andrew Miller and Josh Hader have dominated from the bullpen. These three pitchers have one thing in common: they’ll pitch whenever required, for as long as they can. Hader looked unstoppable last postseason with the Milwaukee Brewers. Miller was a vital piece to getting the Cleveland Indians to the World Series in 2016. Sean Newcomb can be that guy for the Braves this season.
Newcomb has been an ace since moving to the bullpen. In three starts, Newcomb pitched 12 innings with an ERA of 4.38. After his command issues continued to haunt him, the Braves sent Newcomb to the minors for some work. Since returning, Newcomb has pitched 12 innings in May while posting an ERA of 1.50. In June, Newcomb has pitched 10 innings and has an ERA of 0. Newcomb has been able to get his ERA down to 2.00 for the season. Walks, being the issue that was plaguing Newcomb before he was sent to the minors, have drastically declined. In the 22 innings Newcomb has pitched in May and June, he has only recorded 4 walks.
The Braves still have issues in their bullpen, mainly the closer role. Brian Snitker seems set on keeping Luke Jackson as the closer, which has produced mixed results all season. I thought Newcomb would be a viable option for the Braves closer vacancy, but Snitker has yet to budge from Jackson. That might be for the best. Newcomb has found his home in the bullpen. Maybe not his permanent home, but for now, he looks comfortable. The Braves are still going to have issues in their bullpen for the rest of the season, but Newcomb has proven to be an answer instead of another question mark.