Struggling to begin the season, and oftentimes sharing infield spots with Jose Barrero, Kevin Newman has completely turned his season around.
The former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop has raised his batting average up to a respectable .270 following a productive end of the month of May. This boost in production has led manager Cincinnati Reds David Bell to slot Newman as the Reds leadoff hitter.
Now this makes sense against left-handed pitching. Newman has absolutely destroyed lefties this season. His batting average is nearly .100 points higher, slashing .346/.414/.539 against southpaws. But why has Bell continued to trot out Newman atop the Reds batting order when a right-hander is on the bump?
Why is Reds infielder Kevin Newman leading off against right-handed pitchers?
One could make the argument that Kevin Newman shouldn't even be in the lineup against right-handed pitchers, let alone batting leadoff in front of the likes of Jonathan India, Matt McLain, and Jake Fraley.
During last night's series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, Newman was actually playing third base but sitting further down in the batting order. But pregame injuries to both Fraley and Nick Senzel forced David Bell to reshuffle his lineup, and once again, Newman was at the top with right-hander Julio Tehran on the mound for the Brew Crew.
The Reds haven't necessarily hit right-handed pitching very well this season; the team ranks ninth in batting average and 12th in OPS versus right-handed pitching. But Newman is slashing a measly .227/.286/.261 against right-handed pitching this year, and yet Bell continues to put him in the leadoff spot.
The Cincinnati Reds have better options. Both India and Fraley perform better against right-handed hurlers than Newman, and once TJ Friedl returns from the IL, he'll be the unquestioned leadoff batter against righties.
Quite frankly, Will Benson is another viable option. Benson got off to a horrendous start but has since shown flashes of potential over the last seven games (.263/.364/.368). He has barreled baseballs consistently and has shown the ability to compete against right-handed pitching. This may be a last resort, but Benson should get consideration over Newman.
Hopefully Monday's initial batting order will be the norm going forward, and this trend has come to an end With a fully healthy roster, Reds fans should no longer see Kevin Newman atop David Bell's lineup card when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.