Singer shoves and Bobby hits a bomb
Brady Singer and Bobby Witt, Jr. provide the lethal one-two punch against the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Royals make an unsurprising roster move and the 2023 schedule is released.
Brady Singer and Bobby Witt, Jr.
That’s it. That’s the lede.
If the Royals are to compete in the near future, it will be on the arm of Singer and the bat of Witt. A sneak peak of the future was once again on display on Wednesday as Singer threw seven almost flawless frames and Witt provided the difference with a three-run jack in the eighth. The final: 5-3 for the good guys.
While the Royals’ blueprint for 2022 went up in smoke almost from the jump, the one player who has taken a mighty step forward has been Singer. He’s officially transformed himself from frustrating starter to front-line starter. Although the pedigree has always been there, I don’t think after the results of 2021—and his exile to the bullpen to open ‘22—anyone saw this coming.
Singer has claimed the mantle as the legit ace of this pitching staff. Meanwhile, Witt has quietly emerged as the best player on the roster. As noted yesterday, he’s had his slumps this year, but when he’s been locked in at the plate, it’s something to behold. And he’s currently locked in.
It was Singer’s ninth consecutive outing where he went at least six innings. For a team with a beleaguered bullpen, that was just what the manager ordered. It’s a stretch of starts where Singer hasn’t always been on his game, but he’s usually gotten the job done. At a minimum, he’s kept his club in the game.
One game with a Game Score below 50 in his last nine starts. That was the White Sox game where he allowed 11 hits. All but one were singles, so he dodged most of that traffic to allow just four runs (three coming on a home run). How about his start gainst the Tigers where he walked five? And allowed seven hits? Again, plenty of runners on base, but he was able to tap dance around that, surrendering just a single run. I think it’s a safe assumption that the 2021 version of Singer wouldn’t have been able to navigate those situations to basically minimize the damage.
But that’s about it for the negatives. Look at all the positives. The 12 strikeouts against Tampa. The 10 against the Yankees where he twirled seven shutout innings. The Royals are 7-2 in Singer’s last nine starts, with one of those losses coming in that Yankee game by a 1-0 scoreline. The other was the previously mentioned White Sox game which the Royals lost 4-1.
Singer has a 2.01 ERA in those starts. An almost 4:1 SO:BB ratio. Opponents are hitting .212 against him with a .281 OBP and, get this…a .291 slugging percentage. Seriously! He’s faced 226 batters and allowed eight extra-base hits. Eight!
On Wednesday, Singer didn’t get a ton of swings and misses—only five—but with some wicked deception, he was pounding the zone. Would you be interested in seeing an unfair front door sinker?
You almost want to feel pity for Ketel Marte. It’s unfair to have to stand in the box against that. Especially when this happened earlier in the game.
I love Marte’s reaction to that one. That’s a hitter who’s properly impressed.
Singer continues to get improved run and drop on the sinker from last year. According to data from Baseball Savant, he’s getting about three more inches of drop on the pitch from 2021, going from 17.7 inches to 20.3 inches on average. That’s a massive increase. His horizontal movement hasn’t improved that much, but he’s still about an inch better, going from 13.2 inches of run on average to 14.5 inches.
The improved movement of that pitch is just as important as him mixing in a third offering. (More on that below.) Last year, opponents hit .325 against his sinker. This year, they have a .244 BA on the pitch. Its Run Value has gone from 11 (which is quite poor) to a -4 (which is very good).
Do not sleep on the improvement of Singer’s sinker. It’s been huge in his development this season.
Because this newsletter is all about clocking the Singer changeup, I’ll note that he threw 10 of them on Wednesday. That was, as usual, good to see. What was even better was the location of those pitches.
The above is to the left-handed batters he faced. He did throw one cambio to a righty. Singer isn’t getting hitters to chase—there were just three swings against the pitch and all were fouled off—but he’s locating well. The pitch is staying down for the most part. If it leaks into the upper part of the zone, he’s on the edge away. Eventually, he’ll find some depth to the pitch and get some hitters to fish. A quality changeup is not developed in an outing. His increased usage is just the first, positive step.
NBA Jam voice: “He’s heating up!”
Yes, Bobby Witt, Jr. is most definitely heating up. The home run he smashed on Wednesday was the second game in a row where he went deep.
I wrote about Singer keeping the changeup away when elevated. I guess he’s fortunate that he doesn’t have to pitch to Bobby Bombs. That swing and the easy power that goes along with it is a sight to behold. He certainly caught all of the pitch, but it kept going and going and going…
Statcast had it at 108 MPH off the bat with a 21 degree launch angle. Seriously, the way that ball sliced through the atmosphere I would’ve sworn the angle was higher. Whatever. The ball traveled 437 feet. Royals media relations noted that Witt is behind only Aaron Judge, C.J. Cron, Yordan Alvarez, Byron Buxton and Ronald Acuña Jr. when it comes to players who have hit a baseball over 435 feet this year. Witt has done it now five times. He’s actually tied with Salvador Perez on the leaderboard.
The kid is good.
The pregame roster moves weren’t exactly a surprise. Reliever Josh Staumont was placed on the 15-day IL with a right biceps tendinitis less than 24 hours after throwing a career-high 42 pitches in his outing where he was showing a decrease in fastball velocity. The intrepid crew at Bally’s Sports Kansas City captured Staumont in the dugout after his night was done rubbing his shoulder/upper arm area.
When the broadcasters don’t have anything to say (and they didn’t…they went silent once this image was shown), you know it’s bad. As noted in yesterday’s edition, Mike Matheny didn’t have a ton of options in the bullpen for Tuesday’s game. But damn if this isn’t a horrible look. Especially for a guy who took plenty of heat in his previous managerial stop for bullpen mismanagement.
It was an especially taxing appearance for Staumont. His 42 pitches were the most he’d thrown this year in an outing by nine. He tossed 33 pitches in an inning of work against the Twins at the end of May. Hell, Staumont has topped 30 pitches in an outing just one other time before Tuesday. A week before that Twins appearance, he threw 32 pitches against the Rockies. It was shortly after those turns out of the bullpen that his fastball velocity started to decline.
Staumont ended up on the IL with a neck injury at the end of June. He returned for the Blue Jays series just ahead of the All-Star break. Since that time, he’s made 13 appearances and thrown 11.2 innings. He’s allowed 16 runs on 16 hits while walking 12 and striking out 11. That’s an ERA of 12.34. Opponents are hitting .348 against him with a .475 OBP. Nearly 50 percent of all batters who have come to the plate against Staumont have reached base!
The point is, Staumont isn’t right. He hasn’t been right. Yet Matheny saw fit to have him throw a career-high 42 pitches against the Diamondbacks in a meaningless August game.
The dossier against Matheny keeping his job beyond this season is growing.
Major League Baseball unveiled its 2023 schedule and let’s just say there are some massive changes forthcoming.
Let’s start with the good.
Next year, teams will play 52 divisional games, down from 76. It’s always been kind of insane that teams within the same division play each other almost half the time. Honestly, it makes for a boring schedule seeing the same teams so frequently. Sure, maybe the competition is down in the AL Central, but I guarantee you would feel the same if you were a fan of another club.
The downside of fewer divisional games is a schedule that could lack some drama in the final weeks. Let’s just pretend the Royals are going to contend in ‘23 and will be jockeying for position in the Central. There are just 12 games against divisional foes over the last four weeks. They finish with home weekend series against the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees. That could be trouble. This year, when the calendar flips to September in a week and a half, 24 of the Royals’ final 30 games will be within the division.
One of the things I’ve really disliked about the high number of divisional games on the schedule is that means fewer games against teams outside the division. If I may yell at a cloud for a moment, I thought the schedule from the early years after baseball split into divisions was ideal—two series home and home against each team in the league. It just made things a little more interesting knowing that if you had a tight, tense series against say Baltimore in April, there would be at least three more turns against them. Trust me. It just made the season a little more interesting. Also, if you were unable to make a home series against the Angels and wanted to watch Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, there would be another chance to catch them later in the season.
Now for the bad…they jettisoned the divisional games in favor of more interleague. Starting in 2023 there will be 46 interleague games, up from 20. The Royals will play each National League team three times and the Cardinals four times, splitting two at home and away. This little two-game set creates its own little weirdness. At the end of May following two games in St. Louis, the Royals will have Wednesday and Thursday off. Then in August after hosting the Cardinals on Friday and Saturday, they will be idle on Sunday.
Aside from the Cardinals, the Royals’ home National League series will be against the Braves, Nationals, Rockies, Reds, Dodgers, Mets and Pirates. They’ll travel to play the Giants, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Phillies and Cubs.
All this means that intraleague games—the item I was advocating for earlier will basically remain unchanged with 64 intraleague games, down from 66. So you still have one shot to watch a particular team visit The K or certain players like Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
I have a suspicion this schedule is produced to further normalize interleague play. The next step—after the stadium issues are resolved in Tampa and Oakland—will be to add two more teams and throw the 32 clubs into a massive realignment based on geography. The American and National Leagues will basically cease to exist. They’re barely hanging on as it is.
With 32 clubs you’ll have four divisions of eight teams and from those divisions, the top four will continue on into October. Yep, we’re heading to a lucrative 16-team postseason field. Even when you look at the 2023 schedule, don’t forget that it’s all about the money.
Do you really think Matheny makes it past this year? I just have a hard time believing major changes aren’t in store here this offseason. I actually am of the belief DM steps down and the reigns go entirely to JJ. Someone has to fall on the sword for this and I think it has to go farther than Matheny quite honestly. You can’t replace everyone and leave the FO intact. And if your Sherman, and you take a realistic look at this and think we probably aren’t competing next year either. Its so much easier to start anew with someone this offseason. We’ll see.
Singer has been great. Top of the rotation piece found. Now, we need to find 13 more arms. But its a start.
The good news: Lynch did a half-decent job of throwing first-pitch strikes Saturday night. The bad news: it didn't matter much.