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The Royals need to get Brady Singer more innings

The dude needs to pitch

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer (51) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a spring training game at Surprise Stadium. Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to get this out of the way now: I am a big fan of Brady Singer. I planted my flag on Singer Hill in 2018 when he was still pitching for the University of Florida and hadn’t yet been drafted by the Royals. I loved his fiery, competitive attitude on the mound and thought he had the stuff to succeed at the big league level. And he has! Considering the long-term struggles this organization has had with developing starting pitching, Singer being worth 3.0 fWAR through just shy of 200 big league innings has to be considered a success. He was 2nd among Royals starters in fWAR in 2021 and in 2020.

Despite all this, we are ten games in to the Royals season and Singer has pitched just three innings. Those three innings all came in mop-up duty in a game that was already well out of hand. 12 pitchers on the active roster have pitched more innings than Singer. Why haven’t the Royals given him innings? It’s easy to be put off by his 4.74 career ERA, but let’s take a look under the hood and compare him to his peers in the Royals starting rotation.

Royals Young Pitching

Player IP Hard Hit % Barrel % Whiff % Walk %
Player IP Hard Hit % Barrel % Whiff % Walk %
2021 League Average - 38.7 7.9 25.9 8.7
Kris Bubic 185 38.8 8.7 23.5 11.1
Carlos Hernandez 109 40.9 9.0 25.5 10.7
Brad Keller 507 38.4 6.7 20.8 9.4
Jackson Kowar 33.2 52.1 10.9 23.7 12.0
Daniel Lynch 78 44.9 10.6 26.2 9.3
Brady Singer 195.2 38.4 5.5 24.7 8.9

Feel free to declare “small sample size” for Lynch and Hernandez, and I remain optimistic about their futures, but neither of them put up the strikeout numbers in the minors that one would expect given their explosive stuff. The fact is, out of all the Royals’ under-27 starters competing for spots in the rotation this season, Singer is the only one that has been at least about league average in missing bats, limiting hard contact, and avoiding free passes. Those three factors are key to being a successful big league pitcher.

The numbers under the hood look solid, so why has Singer pitched to a 4.74 ERA despite a 4.11 FIP? The easy answer is the lack of a reliable third pitch, which has been the subject of much consternation on this site. While some guys like Lance Lynn and Alek Manoah have been able to succeed as essentially two-pitch starting pitchers, it’s a fine line to toe. One would assume that, after putting up a 4.06 ERA his rookie season, hitters figured him out, and his ERA subsequently jumped to 4.91.

I’m not convinced it’s quite that simple. Singer’s strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate were almost the same between 2020 and 2021. The biggest change was in his BABIP allowed, which jumped from .260 in 2020 to .350 in 2021, well above the league average of .290. One could argue that was due to hitters figuring him out, but it’s not like guys were teeing off against him, as his hard hit rate actually improved from 40.1% to 37.6%, while his barrel rate remained firmly better than league average. It’s easy to envision him getting back to at least his rookie year level with some improved batted ball luck. This is a bit more of a longshot, but I’d also bet that Singer would see his numbers improve if he had better catcher framing given how often he throws pitches in the zone that batters take.

It’s rather odd, given the Royals perpetual insistence that they are trying to win as many games as possible, that they are not starting the guy that is objectively one of the five best starting pitchers on the 40-man roster right now. If the Royals truly believe that Bubic, Lynch, or Hernandez should be starting games over Singer, that’s fine. But they need to get Singer some innings. Give him regular innings out of the bullpen. Have him piggyback with another of the starters, since it’s not like anybody is pitching deep into games. Hell, send him to Omaha for regular starts if that’s what it takes. Especially within the context that Singer needs to develop a third pitch, it doesn’t help anybody to have him twiddling his thumbs in the bullpen and pitch in a long-relief mop-up role once a week.

Poll

What should the Royals do with Brady Singer?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Starting rotation
    (184 votes)
  • 8%
    High-leverage relief
    (42 votes)
  • 4%
    Low-leverage relief
    (20 votes)
  • 21%
    Piggyback/multi-inning relief
    (104 votes)
  • 23%
    AAA Rotation
    (114 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (trade, DFA, etc.)
    (22 votes)
486 votes total Vote Now