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A Change Would Do You Good
Brady Singer only threw eight of them, but he threw them and that's a start.
Brady Singer was not good last night. I don’t think he was necessarily bad, but he definitely wasn’t good. He walked four batters in five innings and gave up seven hits. Only one of the four runs he allowed was earned after they changed a hit to an error on Ryan O’Hearn in the first, but he also was hit pretty hard with five balls hit 100 MPH or harder. He didn’t have much in the way of control even though he threw some excellent sinkers and sliders. But there was progress throughout the game that was kind of unexpected to me!
Two nights ago, we had the chance to watch Daniel Lynch face the Astros in the same situation Singer faced. Lynch had seen the Astros on Tuesday night in Kansas City and had to face them Monday in Houston. Singer was one day behind, so he had to face the Astros a second time in a week. My concern coming in was that while Lynch has the repertoire to change his game plan a bit, Singer simply does not. If you’ve read anything from me about Singer or heard me on the radio, you know how often I’ve harped on not only Singer developing a third pitch but his seeming unwillingness to throw it at all at the big league level.
I have to say that the first time through the order, I was all set to be very annoyed again. He went through a rough first inning throwing 27 pitches and there wasn’t a changeup to be found. Then, the bottom of the second started and lefty Jason Castro was up to the plate. Singer started him with a sinker on the outer third. It was a good pitch. And then he unleashed it.
It wasn’t good at all. I’ll get to the locations on all of his changeups in a minute. But he threw it in a game. It was the 110th changeup of his career. The 19th he ever threw in the second inning. Why am I telling you this? Honestly, I don’t know, so let’s just move on. He didn’t throw it again that inning, and I was all set to be annoyed again. As the lineup turned over, he was facing them for a second time last night and the fifth time in a week. He had two lefties in Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez, but didn’t throw one to either.
It wasn’t until Castro came up again that he threw it again. He got two strikes on a couple sinkers and then tried to get a chase from Castro on a slider and couldn’t, so he went with the changeup.
Again, I didn’t like the spot. I think it was up too much, but if you’re going to miss up with a changeup, doing it off the plate is a good idea. It also did look like it was moving in a sort of funky way, which you love to see. When Castro swung through it, he recorded his first strikeout on a changeup this season and third of his career. It was kind of a big moment for him. He used it in a big situation. There was a runner in scoring position and he used it to get out of the small jam.
He threw one to Altuve to start his at bat in the fourth. It was the fifth changeup he’d thrown to a righty in his career. It wasn’t good at all, catching way too much of the plate, but he threw it, which is encouraging because he simply just has to start throwing it at some point. Then he started Brantley with one and threw another on a 2-1 pitch. Neither was a strike, but he threw them. And then he got another strikeout on it, catching Alvarez looking on the best one he threw all night.
And on his final hitter of the game, he threw two more to Castro, who has to feel honored that he was the guy who got to be the guinea pig for the changeup for Singer. Again, neither was especially good, but he got a foul on one and Castro took one for a ball. I think they set up a sinker up and away for a strikeout.
In all, he threw eight changeups in 104 pitches. He’d thrown at least eight changeups on four different occasions, so maybe this is just a blip and recency bias, but I don’t remember him throwing them in the same leverage spots as he did last night. And he definitely hadn’t had the success on it given that he hadn’t struck out a single batter with it before last night this season. And, I’ll say it again, I really didn’t like his spots with it.
It could have definitely been worse. The one in the zone toward the right-handed batter’s box was the perfect pitch to Alvarez for the strikeout. The other in the zone was the pitch that Altuve fouled off, which very easily could have (and maybe should have) been driven to right-center. I really would have liked pretty much all of the rest off the plate to be six inches lower, but as I said before, they were also put in a spot where it would be tough for the Astros to do damage against them.
I really would love to see this changeup dive a lot more than it did. The one to Alvarez was the best of the night, in my opinion, and even that could have dove a bit more. When you look at the way his sinker moves, if he can tunnel the changeup and figure some grip out that allows it to dive on those hitters but look like his sinker for even a little bit out of his hand, it could be a deadly pitch. There was just way too much armside run on it last night. I also wish it wasn’t such a firm changeup. It’s not that you can’t succeed throwing it with that little separation in velocity, but it does make things harder. I’m honesty a little surprised he got the one swing and miss that he did.
So there is absolutely some work to do on the pitch, but after he’d thrown nine in his last five starts, to see him start to use the pitch in the situations he did was really encouraging. I still don’t think the third pitch has to be a changeup, but if he can get some confidence in that pitch, he’ll find himself with another weapon and maybe fully understand how useful that can be for him. With the emergence of guys like Lynch and Carlos Hernandez, I think the pressure is no longer on Singer to become more than he was ever destined to be, but I’m actually back to being sort of excited for his starts to see if he can build on what he did last night.
The bar is admittedly low. Simply throwing eight changeups out of 104 pitches is enough to get my attention, but even with the team playing very good baseball overall recently, it’s all about the development and if Singer can continue to develop and be a key piece moving forward, then it’s all worth it.
O’Hearn Continues to Not Impress
My ire from this game isn’t directed at Singer as is usually the case when he starts, but rather O’Hearn. I continue to be flummoxed by the opportunities he has received over the years while others find themselves unable to crack the lineup and even the roster sometimes. He came up and was so good in 2018 that I was very excited to see what he could do in 2019, but he fell flat. The company line was that he hit into bad luck, but I looked into it over at Royals Review, and, well, that wasn’t really nearly as big of a deal as you’d believe if you only listened to the broadcast.
He hit .195/.281/.369 that year with a wRC+ of 68 in 370 plate appearances. Last year, he hit .195/.303/.301 with a wRC+ of 65 in 132 plate appearances. For a first baseman/designated hitter and sometimes corner outfielder, that simply doesn’t cut it. He started this year at the alternate site and debuted in the big leagues on April 23 when he went 1 for 2 with a homer and two walks. He homered again a few days later, but then was sent to Omaha after the Royals lost to the Rays on May 27 in another Singer start.
He had one of the great runs you’ll see at any level, hitting .375/.451/.931 with 12 home runs in 82 plate appearances. As someone who has never been a fan, even I couldn’t justify keeping him down with those numbers. And then he homered in back-to-back games in Yankee Stadium and it looked like maybe he’d figured something out.
I am here to tell you that he hasn’t. Since the Royals left St. Louis, he’s hit .161/.229/.226 in 35 plate appearances. Overall, he’s hit .241/.267/.409 in 146 plate appearances since coming back from Omaha. When you look at that line and think that maybe he’s figured something out, you know things have gone bad. And he directly cost the Royals big time that led to a big first inning they never recovered from. Maybe we’re talking about another very good start from Singer if he fields this ball on the second pitch of the bottom of the first.
Errors do happen, but when you’re playing first base and not hitting, you better not make those. I’m not sure how that was ever called a hit, but it was originally. Carlos Santana has struggled with the bat, but he’s been making the plays recently.
And then Nicky Lopez made a diving stop with two outs and skipped a throw to first. Yes, it was a tough scoop. I still think a good first baseman makes this play.
The error went to Lopez and maybe I’m being unfair to O’Hearn because I’m just not a fan of his as a player, but I really feel like he has to make that play or at least keep it in front of him. It was definitely a tough play and Lopez absolutely could have made a better throw, but that’s a play first basemen have to make every day. Of course, there were two outs at that time, so without the first error, that play theoretically never would have happened had he not made the error to start the inning. I’m piling on, sure, but I think it’s warranted.
But what frustrates me the most about O’Hearn is that players who deserve an opportunity simply don’t get it while he does. I personally don’t think much of Ryan McBroom, but he came into 2020 with a career .269/.321/.436 line including the Royals record for pinch hit home runs in a season. Why can’t he get even half the opportunity O’Hearn has? Why is Edward Olivares sitting in the minors with O’Hearn playing plenty of right field? It just drives me nuts and never more than when he’s directly responsible for completely taking the Royals out of a game before even starting another nothing day at the plate.
The beauty of baseball has always been and always will be that today is a new day. And there’s an even shorter turnaround to wash the stink of yesterday off. Don’t forget the game is on YouTube…for some reason. So enjoy Jeremy Guthrie calling a game…for some reason…as the Royals go for the series win in Houston.