Singer's season has him in elite Royals company

October 1st, 2022

CLEVELAND -- It didn’t end the way he would have liked, but Friday’s outing didn’t take away from Brady Singer’s stellar 2022 season.

For the first four innings of the Royals’ 6-3 series-opening loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field on Friday, Singer looked like the dominant pitcher he’s shown he can be.

The right-hander struck out six of the first 13 batters he faced -- against a lineup with the lowest strikeout rate in the Majors -- in four no-hit innings before giving up seven hits and six runs between the fifth and sixth innings, flipping the Royals’ three-run lead into a three-run deficit.

“I’m happy with the season,” Singer said. “I wish it would have ended a little differently. It’s not going to make me happy all offseason. But you get back to it and have a good offseason.”

Singer’s outing turned Friday when Steven Kwan singled to lead off the sixth inning, followed by Gabriel Arias’ bunt misplayed by Singer and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino to put two on for José Ramírez. The Guardians’ slugger continued to torment the Royals, depositing a slider over the right-field fence for the go-ahead three-run homer.

“[The bunt] was a tough play for me,” Singer said. “Felt it off my back foot, guy was moving down the line. … I think the stuff was still there. I probably threw too many sliders to Ramírez there. Felt like I did that all night to him. And then, obviously, really good hitter. Put a good swing on it. You can probably work around him if a guy isn’t on first there.”

Even though he would line up to pitch the final game of the season on Wednesday, Singer isn’t scheduled to pitch again over this season-ending six-game series in Cleveland. So as long as he doesn’t make any surprise appearances over the next five games, the 26-year-old will end 2022 with a 3.23 ERA across 27 games (24 starts) and 153 1/3 innings. He struck out 150 batters this season, while walking 35.

That will be the fifth-best ERA by a Royals pitcher (min. 150 innings) since 2000. And only four pitchers in team history have thrown more than 150 innings with a better strikeout-per-nine than Singer (8.8) this year: Tom Gordon in 1991 (9.5), Zack Greinke in 2009 (9.5), Danny Duffy in 2016 (9.4) and Kevin Appier in 1996 (8.8).

Four years after the Royals drafted him No. 18 overall out of the University of Florida, Singer has established himself as a frontline starter for Kansas City to continue to build around as it looks to take steps out of its rebuild.

And for all the pitching questions surrounding the Royals as they head into an offseason full of ensuing change, Singer has been a refreshing answer in 2022.

“Brady has set himself apart as an elite starter,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He needs to build off this. Remember the things that have allowed him to have success this season. It’s the consistent execution. It’s using that third pitch. It’s knowing the league better.

“It’s challenging hitters and understanding that his stuff is good enough to get guys out when he gets behind in counts. … [He] did a great job pounding the strike zone, trusting himself, trusting his defense.”

Singer’s season didn’t start as successfully as it ended. Mechanical flaws and setbacks during Spring Training pushed him out of the rotation and into the bullpen to start the season, and he made three relief appearances before the Royals demoted him to Triple-A Omaha to work on his stuff and get stretched out as a starter.

He returned a dominant pitcher, armed with a slightly tweaked grip on his fastball, allowing him to regain pinpoint location coupled with its usual movement to throw hitters off. His slider remained lethal. And he was confident in throwing his changeup.

That led to a breakout summer. After his return, Singer recorded seven starts in which he pitched at least seven innings and allowed no more than one run. He entered Friday’s game 6-0 in nine starts since Aug. 9, with a 1.89 ERA in that stretch.

“I think the mentality was really good all year,” Singer said. “The way I was going at guys, the work in between, I was really happy with it all. There’s still a lot to work on. I can go back and look at what I can get better at with my pitches. Sharpen some stuff.

“And just come back healthy and ready to rock.”