Would you like to meet the Bears' new ace Friday starter? Not if you're a team from California, you wouldn't. Apparently California angers him, and you wouldn't like him when he's angry. To describe Newman as "lights out" this afternoon is an injustice. He was better than that. Here's his line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 Ks. Tasty.
Going back to his start against UCLA, he's gone 12 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 10 Ks. Seriously, you don't want to face this man if you're a team from California... or anywhere else for that matter. After the great year he had out of the bullpen, I expected Newman to be a senior leader for the Bears, but he's started the year even better than I would have imagined, and along with Stone and Garner, he should be the cornerstone of an excellent rotation.
So how is Newman doing this? I'm glad I asked. Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers, the font of college baseball knowledge himself, was at the game and gave an excellent breakdown of the performance. Read the entire thing here. Basically, Newman doesn't overpower hitters, sitting 85-87 with the fastball, but he mixes in a nice slider and an excellent change-up (it may be a split-finger). Heard that before? If you read my last piece that highlighted Austin Stone you did. Stone, who is coincidentally starting tomorrow's 3:30 pm game against Houston, has essentially the same scouting report. What sets these guys apart, and guys like last year's co-aces Turley and Blank, is the ability to keep hitters off balance with location and pitch selection.
After Newman was done, Jr. Trae Davis and Sr. Miles Landry finished Cal off with a scoreless inning each. When Davis entered for the 8th, Kendall Rogers tweeted that "if Davis can get going it would be huge for the Bears". I don't exactly think Trae Davis is the key to a winning season, but he has always intrigued scouts with his raw arm strength. Coming out of high school, Davis could run his fastball up to 95 mph, but he's never been able to put it all together at Baylor. My fingers are firmly crossed that this is the magical year where he figures it all out.
With the bats, Langford, Orf, Towey, and Price did much of the damage in the 2-5 spots in the lineup. I really like this lineup that Steve Smith has gone to:
1)Toth/Brown/Tunnel - Speed at the top with any of the three. Brown and Toth are both off to solid starts.
2) Langford - High average, high OBP contact guy.
3) Orf - The best hitter on the team.
4) Towey - The only experienced power threat. His average isn't showing it yet, but he's coming around.
5) Price - Inexperienced but high ceiling player. Power is already starting to show.
6) Toth - If he's not batting leadoff, this offers another experienced, high-average bat in the back half.
7) Wendel/DalPorto - Both off to good starts. Hoping Wendel shows more power.
8) Miller/Doe - Whoever rounds into form first would get my nod here.
9) Goodwin/Landes/Menard - None of them is Josh Ludy, but Goodwin is off to a good start.
It's interesting that in the game today, Miller started at shortstop, but he was replaced early in the game by Doe, who had a nice game with a couple singles. The same thing happened to Wendel, who started at first but was replaced by DalPorto after a baserunning error. DalPorto also used the opportunity to knock a couple singles.
All in all, it looks to me like the team is rounding into form. If you're around the Houston area and want to watch some college ball at Minute Maid Park, the Bears go again at 3:30 tomorrow. Get out there and support the team. Feed the Beaver, and apparently, Catch the Cat... I don't know why that's a new thing, but the team apparently carries around a stuffed cat along with the stuffed beaver mascot... Weird... All I can say is that I hope it's not a reference to the Baylor ballplayer who got into trouble for literally skinning a cat behind the Taco Bell a few years ago... for serious guys, if you're slump is that bad, killing an animal in some kind of voodoo ritual won't help you.