It's the same old song from Singer

Brady Singer gets rocked in his return to the rotation.

That escalated quickly. In his return for the IL—and a rehab assignment that lasted two outings and 4.2 innings in Omaha—Brady Singer was touched up for three runs in the first. They came courtesy of two walks and three singles. It put the Royals from the jump. They fell in the series finale to the Yankees by a score of 5-2.

The first inning was typical of what we’ve seen from Singer starts of late. It was a slog. The good news was Singer wasn’t sitting in the middle of the plate. Goodness, the Yankees would’ve punished those. Instead, he was missing off the plate to the arm side.

Two of the three first inning singles came on weak contact. But when it became obvious he was missing off that edge of the plate, and knowing he was throwing mostly sinkers in his first trip through the lineup, Yankee bats were doing just enough to get on base.

Singer stopped missing so far off the arm side of the plate in the second which meant he didn’t walk anyone…

…but he still allowed two singles. These were hit harder than what we saw in the first. Likely because they were on elevated pitches on the outer half.

He started catching more of the center of the plate in the third inning and then paid the price in the fourth. A leadoff double from Tyler Wade followed by three consecutive one-out singles chased him from the start. Singer required 67 pitches to record 11 outs. He allowed 10 hits and three walks. He threw his slider 42 percent of the time but got just one swing and miss on the pitch.

Here’s what Singer had to say about his outing after the game.

“Definitely command was off on the fastball. The slider didn’t feel real sharp either. I threw some good ones at times when I needed to. The changeup, I threw it but it didn’t have much command of it either. So all around struggled with command. You know, just one of the things I need to continue to work on.”

The changeup! The mythical changeup. You know, the third pitch that’s supposed to come in handy if the top two options aren’t behaving. More from Singer:

“When you don’t have the other two pitches going, it’s kind of hard to go to your third pitch. I wanted to throw it (the changeup) a lot. I feel really comfortable with it. It’s something that I’ve worked on over the past few weeks. I feel super comfortable with it and felt like I can throw it in any count, but when the other two pitches aren’t working as well it is definitely tough to throw your third-best pitch.”

So he is, by his own words, super comfortable throwing the change in any count. Let’s consult Baseball Savant to see how many he threw on the afternoon.

Hmmmm…

As you can see from the first pitch chart above, the changeup came off the plate in the first inning. Witness.

Looking deeper at the data from Baseball Savant, I’m thinking they’re selling him short. Singer threw at least two changeups. Maybe three.

I included a legit sinker and legit slider at the top and bottom of the data above to give an idea about where those specific pitches normally are for Singer. It’s a nice point of reference.

That pitch classified as a sinker at 90.5 mph sure acted like Singer’s changeup. It was just delivered about 3 mph faster than the average Singer change. The pitch tagged as four-seamer could be a changeup. Whatever it is, it’s a little different. Singer doesn’t throw a lot of pitches classified as four-seamers, but they’re generally coming in around 92.7 mph with a spin rate of 2,236. This pitch had the velocity and spin of the Singer changeup, but the movement was closer in appearance to the slider.

It’s looking like some sort of modified changeup. Very similar to the pitch that was classified as a changeup.

Really, this hunt is sort of irrelevant. Does it matter if Singer is throwing one changeup or three in an outing? The Yankees were clearly sitting sinker and adjusting change. Hitting isn’t easy. But it can be made easier if the pitcher doesn’t have solid stuff and is serving up the same two offerings again and again.

Here’s what Mike Matheny had to say about Singer’s changeup.

“I was hoping to see it (the changeup) a little more. He’s going to have to (throw it more). That’s just something that he knows. You gotta find yourself in some better counts to do that unless you’re going to throw it first pitch and he was trying not to work behind, knowing that’s probably his third-best pitch as far as strike ratio. It’s tough when you’re working behind, and he was behind and he was in trouble every single inning.”

Indeed.

I split the location of the hits Singer allowed to left and right-handed batters.

Five hits to each side. (There’s a dot obscured by the lower sinker to the right-handed batter. It was a sinker.) Sure, it was nice that he stayed out of the middle of the zone for the most part, but that’s not saying much when he’s been dinged around for 10 hits in less than four innings.

Thirty-two starts and 156 innings into his major league career and it feels like we’re approaching a crossroads for Singer. What type of pitcher does he want to be? Is he a starter with a complete arsenal of pitches, including a changeup that he will truly throw in any count in any situation? Or is he content being a reliever, coming out of the bullpen a couple of times a week. Honestly, his lack of a true plus pitch makes me think that if he does shift to the bullpen, he would be utilized in lower leverage situations. Maybe the sinker/slider combo can play up in shorter outings. But against a lineup like the Yankees his current two-pitch mix just isn’t going to get the job done. Especially if he can’t command either offering.

This month we’ve seen some quality starts from young arms like Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch and Carlos Hernández. The upside of the rotation remains strong. But at this point, with continued struggles with command and lack of a third pitch he’s willing to throw in games, it sure looks like the Royals will have to move forward without Singer in their plans. That can obviously change, but it feels like it’s up to the young right-hander.

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Central issues

  • Tigers 5, Orioles 2

The headline here is Miguel Cabrera hit career home run number 499. He also added a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly. Since June 1, he’s hitting .206/.352/.472.

  • A’s 6, Cleveland 3

Oakland has peeled off six wins in a row and will go for the series sweep against Cleveland Thursday afternoon. Elvis Andrus hit a solo home run to tie the game in the eighth and Jed Lowrie provided the rest of the scoring on a three-run bomb later in the frame.

  • White Sox 0, Twins 1

A pitcher’s duel between…Reynaldo López and the White Sox bullpen against Bailey Ober. Sure, why not? The lone run came on a Jorge Polanco home run in the bottom of the sixth off José Ruiz. Three Minnesota relievers combined for 3.2 innings of hitless baseball.

And with the Twins victory and the Royals loss, Kansas City is now in last place in the Central by .001.

Up next

The Royals get a day to cool down. (Literally. It was scorching hot on Wednesday.) A three-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals starts on Friday.

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