I was blessed with the opportunity to write about Brady Singer’s major league debut last week. I was cursed with the knowledge that while his line was fantastic, his process was far less so. I went back and watched his pitches from last night’s game with the hope that he’d fixed the flaw I pointed out last weekend but if anything, it was worse. See if you can tell me what’s wrong with this pitch:
That looks good, right? High fastball, Jonathan Schoop can’t keep up with it. But look at where Salvy is set up. He’s at the low and inside corner and the fastball ends up a couple of inches above the strike zone. That is a very bad miss. And almost all of his fastballs miss in the same way: up.
Jacoby Jones didn’t get all of this one but this time Singer missed up right down the middle and Jones took it to the top of the fence. It’s not always bad to pitch up but it’s rarely good to miss up. Just ask Jorge López:
Catcher Salvador Perez, the only constant in all three videos, not only sets up down but repeatedly taps the dirt to emphasize that it’s OK - even preferable - for the pitch to end up low and out of the strike zone. But the fastball gets away from López anyway and ends up with a 103.4 MPH exit velocity to center field per Baseball Savant. Of course, you didn’t need to know the exit velocity to know that the pitch was bad just look at the reaction of the ever-positive Salvy:
The slider is also a problem
Singer has gotten by so far because of two things: he throws hard and gets good movement on his pitches. That makes it hard for hitters to pick them up, even when they end up right down the middle. Unfortunately, they only need to recognize that the pitch is a slider to know where it’s going to end up. Check out these three strikeout pitches from last weekend:
In all three of these Salvy sets up low and in to the right-handed batter and Singer’s slider ends up low and away. Interestingly enough, and perhaps even more concerning, is that when Salvy sets up low-and-away to a right-handed hitter or low-and-in to a lefty Singer hits the spot.
If his slider goes to the same spot every time - and currently 80% of them have ended up in the same quadrant regardless of hitter-handedness or where Salvy sets up - big league batters are going to eventually pick up on that. In fact, they may have already; Brady had five swings and misses on his slider against Cleveland but Detroit didn’t miss it once. In fact, both of the home runs hit against him were on that pitch. Miguel Cabrera hit a hanging slider up and way while Schoop caught one that would have otherwise nailed Salvy’s glove on the low-away corner.
All hope is not lost, though
That Brady Singer was going to eventually fail was inevitable. As Rex Hudler likes to say, everyone has to eat their slice of Humble Pie, eventually.
So it’s not the end of the world if Brady gets rocked in his next start. However, he is going to have to make adjustments. And, while ideally the necessary adjustments wouldn’t be so obvious after only two starts or to someone who never played baseball above the little league level, he was always going to have to do that. At least Singer has shown more than enough poise and determination to make me believe he could be something special if he gets these flaws under control.
These two things may not translate perfectly one-to-one but when I started getting serious about bowling - something I was far better at than pitching - I had to learn to aim based on how the ball was going to move given my release. This became especially true when I learned to throw a hook-ball. In the end, I learned to adjust the ball to hit the pins where I wanted by aiming somewhere else entirely. If I could learn to throw a late-but-sharp-breaking ball down an oily bowling lane such that it broke exactly where and how I wanted I have no doubt that Brady Singer, with far more talent, some of the best tools, and some of the best teachers in the world, will be able to figure it out.