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Brady Singer’s Best Song is Still Tuning

Brady Singer needs to add a third pitch into arsenal to be successful

Entering his age 25 season, Brady Singer has had spurts of greatness taking the mound for the Kansas City Royals. These inconsistent glimpses make watching his struggles even more frustrating because you know a break-out season is in there somewhere.

Originally selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Singer declined to sign and attended the University of Florida where he took the bump for the Florida Gators.

The decision to attend college helped give Singer meaningful experience in big moments without the scrutiny of the bright lights of professional baseball.

During his freshmen season with the Gators, Singer mostly came in for relief appearances in 23 games and only made one start. Following his 2016 freshman campaign, he played collegiate summer baseball with the Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League. After this run through the summer league, he was named the best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America.

During his time in college, other accolades included being named the 2018 SEC Pitcher of the Year and winning the Dick Howser Trophy for being the best player in all of college baseball in 2018.

Brady Singer proved he could succeed at the collegiate level but has yet to demonstrate success in the MLB with consistency. Could a reliable third pitch be the key to unlocking his best season yet?

 

Sinking with the Sinker

 

Singer seems to rely so heavily on his sinker and when the numbers are combed through, it’s alarming to see how often he throws it. Thrown at 57%, batters can assume to know it’s coming. His success is truly is contingent on the quality of the sinker. To this point, you can know what type of performance Singer will give the Royals by just looking at his first couple of sinkers thrown. The correlation is that strong.

He puts it in his own words as well during a conversation with David Laurila at Fangraphs.

“I’m a sinker guy. I’m one of the few sinker guys that are still around. The big thing now, with analytics, is four-seamers up in the zone with a lot of ride. I’m fully two-seamers. I can make it run, and I can make a sink. I guess I’m one of the guys that haven’t adapted to the major analytic standpoint. Basically, I like to move the ball around a lot.”

 

Applauded by supporters, Singer’s sinker can be viewed as a swiss army knife as he can get batters out in a multitude of ways when it is on. The slight improvement in being able to throw the sinker in the zone is a promising upward trend even if the strikeout percentage (K%) dipped more than 5%.

Being that he is armed with a big arm (can and has hit 97 MPH) and a wicked slider, his 2021 struggles have shown that if he wants to be successful at a consistent clip he needs to grow from just being a two-pitch pitcher with plus command. He truly needs to find a third pitch that he can mix in with success if he wants to be an impact top of the rotation starter that he was projected to be from early on.

Data Visualization by @Kollauf on Twitter

Granted, he more than doubled his starts in the majors from 2020-2021 (a jump from 12 to 27), but the rise in batting average against his slider paired with an increased walk rate and a lowered strikeout percentage was a recipe for disaster. Until he can develop a third reliable pitch, the sinker will be a determining factor of his success from start to start.

Being a sinker reliant pitcher is also dependent on everything to go right with the defense behind you in order to be successful. Brady Singer’s batting average against with his sinker thrown stood at .321 and his XBA was .291. Not a huge discrepancy but it shows that in a lot of ways, maybe the quality of the pitch is better than what the numbers said last year. This supports the notion that a third pitch would help the success of both the slider and the sinker because the guessing could create doubt about what he will throw situationally.

When the ball is in play, anything can happen like finding holes and don’t forget, sometimes things do not bounce in your favor. Living and dying by your defense can certainly have its pitfalls.

Introducing a third pitch could alleviate some of these issues, because there might be more opportunity for swings and misses instead of putting the ball in play.

 

Singer’s Use of the Slider

 

Out of the 2,283 pitches thrown by Singer in 2021, 869 of them were sliders. If the sinker is his bread and butter, the slider is a distant second favorite.

Brady Singer’s Slider (2021 vs. all hitters)

When the sinker and slider are working in tandem, Singer is at his best. He can mix them in and keep hitters off-balanced instead of sitting and being able to predict what is coming next.

Referencing that same interview from Fangraphs back in 2021, Singer was asked if his breaking ball was a slider.

“It’s a slider, but you can call it what you want. Some guys have a true curveball and a true slider, but I kind of have that slurve mix. Lately, I’ve been able to stay on top of the ball more and get a lot more depth to it. I wouldn’t call it a curveball, but I would call it more of a depth-y slider… especially when I’m trying to go under a barrel. That’s to any hitter. Sometimes I’m trying to throw it right on top of the plate, looking for that depth to almost bounce it. Then, when I’m going in to a lefty, or away from a righty, I can get more of that slider action to it. So I guess I could call it two different pitches, but that would just be confusing for the catcher. I can manipulate it, but there’s not a major difference to where the catcher needs to know.”

 


 

The problem with the slider has been mostly throwing it over the plate. Throughout 2021, his slider only fell in the strike zone 39.5% of the time. If he can boost that up above 50+%, it would help immensely. Pitchers can find success throwing their slider in the zone around the same rate as 2021 Brady Singer but the big difference is that they have more than two pitches to rely on. Take 2019 Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young season for example. He threw his slider in the zone 42.7% of the time BUT he also threw a four-seam, a change-up, a sinker, and even mixed in curveballs and splitters. The ability to leave batters unbalanced was due to his plethora of quality pitch options. Singer does not need to perfect all of these pitches, he just needs them to be in the psyche of the hitter as an option to be thrown.

Out of the 869 sliders thrown last year by Brady Singer, 573 of them were strikes. If hitters can lay off the sliders and focus on the one pitch they know he can throw for a strike, they are going to have much more success. This has largely been the problem for Singer throughout his short career thus far. It is not that the sinker isn’t a good pitch, it is. It’s just that hitters know it’s coming and can pretty much hit anything if they can predict its coming.

Bottom line: It is possible to be successful and have a slider that falls in as a strike 40% of the time. This has been proven by some of the elite pitchers in baseball. However, it is doubly hard to find success when you only have two pitches in your repertoire since the unpredictability factor is not there.

If batters can predict it, they usually can hit it.

 

Third Pitch Option: Change-Up

 

Everyone says that it would be nice for Brady Singer to have a third pitch to go with an effective sinker and slider. No one says what pitch it should be. It should be his changeup.

Singer’s changeup has only been seen 140 times out of the 3,354 pitches thrown in his career.

 

 

He has had trouble throwing the change up for a strike and often gets frustrated with the lack of success and abandons it early in games.

But the only way to improve this pitch is by cycling it into the rotation at a more steady pace. He needs to have batters at least believe it’s possible to be mixed in at any given time.

In 2021, Singer threw his change 90 times. This is not enough to know what exactly it can be when perfected and utilized to set up his other pitches.

The changeup has been the missing piece to his arsenal. The key to success for all pitchers is becoming more diverse in pitch selection. This has given batters less of an opportunity to predict what’s coming and that’s a huge advantage for the pitcher.

Seeing as the change-up use has been so infrequently, the data is limited. It’s hard to say what it could be if he decided to even throw it 10% of the time instead of a measly 4%. We can rely on what history tells us about other pitchers in the history of baseball. Developing the third pitch rarely hurts and that’s proven time and time again.

What we can look at is the discrepancy of MPH between his fastest pitch thrown (97.1 MPH sinker) and his average changeup (88 MPH). That is a significant difference to unsettle batters in the box going into the 2022 season.

The other promising aspect of his changeup is the fact that his spin is 12th in all of baseball at 2,083 and 13th in YMov at 7.5. There is something there and if he can tap into it, he could be a breakout star as soon as next year.

Sometimes all that is needed is a change of speed to catch batters off guard.

Brady Singer desperately needs to keep batters guessing to be more successful in 2022. Batters became way too comfortable last year in the box and that cannot be the same this year if he wants to have better outcomes.

 

2022 Outlook

 

It’s not all doom and gloom for Singer. Keep in mind that he is only 25 going into his 3rd season with the Royals. There is an excitement and reason to be optimistic about what he can do as he matures and understands that getting batters out is just as much mental as it is physical.

What can we expect 2022 to look like?

Success will be based on the ability to throw his slider for a strike more consistently and mixing in a third pitch (preferably an off-speed change-up) to confuse batters and leave them more off-balanced at the plate. If his changeup can be thrown consistently and confuse batters, he can rely less on the sinker which would make that pitch even more effective by proxy.

Graphic by: Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

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