Behold this play from the seventh inning of the Pirates-Twins game on April 23, 2021.
This very nice play by Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman on Alex Kiriloff happens to be the only play that Newman made all season in which he dove to field a ball.
Last week, we looked at the top shortstop when it came to sliding, diving, and jumping the last three seasons, Carlos Correa.
We explained that our company’s Video Scouts chart these things as they relate to how fielders approach balls, just one of many aspects of our ‘descriptive defense’ tracking.
This week, we look at the opposite end of the leaderboard, which brings us to Newman.
We come in praise … despite some of the numbers
Before I share any notes, I want to make it clear that we’re not here to mock Newman.
In fact, what we’re going to present will provide a good lesson in adapting to your personal circumstances.
That said, Newman got an out on only 1-of-17 plays in which he dove last season and is 3-of-59 on his diving attempts dating to 2019.
That explains why he ranks where he does when it comes to sliding, diving, and jumping, or what we call “Telegenic Plays.”
Lowest Success Rate on Telegenic Plays – Shortstops 2019-2021
(Among 33 SS with Most Telegenic Attempts)
|Player||Telegenic Plays Made-Attempts||Success Rate|
It should tip you off to the point that we’re going to make that a pair of Gold Glovers are on this list – Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford (2020) and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (most recently 2021).
And that point is that you don’t have to be a Correa-type fielder to be a good defensive shortstop.
In the last few months, I’ve asked questions of multiple athletes (Brandon Crawford was one of them) that netted answers talking about the value of self-awareness.
A basketball player who realized he didn’t have the foot speed to keep up with better athletes at the college level adjusted to focus on better knowing his opponent.
Crawford realized he was getting older and needed to put less strain on his body, which he did by cutting back how often he slid and jumped in the field (30 times in 2019; 16 times in 2020-21 combined).
And in Newman’s case, entering 2021, this was emblematic of what he was.
In 2019 and 2020 combined, Newman cost the Pirates 10 runs with his defensive play at shortstop. So the Pirates gave him homework – develop a better first step and Newman realized that he needed to execute it to ensure big league survival.
In Newman’s case, that took the form of pre-pitch movement, usually in the form of a plyo step that allowed him better forward explosiveness, and better reads of the ball of the bat.
And with that, Newman transformed both how he played defense and the results he got from doing so.
It made plays like these more routine for him than they previously were.
He was now in better position to make a few tougher ones too, including this one, which had an out probability of 10% and was worth 0.7 Runs Saved, matching his most valuable play of the season.
Here’s one going to his backhand, which had an out probability of 20% and a run value of 0.63 runs.
This chart shows how Newman cut back his telegenic attempts. He slid, dove, and jumped a lot less often.
|Telegenic Attempts||Innings||DRS at Shortstop|
He no longer needed to slide, dive, and jump because the movement either gave him better quickness to the ball or a couple-step head start to any ball in play on which he guessed right.
It also allowed him to remain upright, thus making for an easier means to throw the ball to a base.
The reward: A massive improvement in Defensive Runs Saved.
Not everyone can be a Carlos Correa in the field. Newman has figured out what he is – and though he doesn’t slide, dive or jump effectively, he’s got other things going for him. It’s an approach that works for him and he made the most of it in 2021.