KC Royals pitcher Brady Singer almost pitched a no-hitter Thursday, reminding fans of Jorge Lopez’s near miss two years ago. Will Singer be better than Lopez?
Brady Singer’s serious flirtation with a no-hitter in Cleveland Thursday night triggered memories of Jorge Lopez’s similar performance for the KC Royals on a near perfect night two years ago.
It was September 8, 2018 when the mercurial Jorge Lopez took a perfect game into the ninth inning against Minnesota, only to surrender a leadoff walk and then a single. On Thursday, two years and two days removed from Lopez’s stellar outing, Singer struck out the first batter he faced, walked the next, then retired 19 in a row before yielding a two-out single to Carlos Santana in the eighth.
While their efforts were similar, the differences between the pitchers are unmistakable. Lopez, now pitching for the Orioles after the Royals let him go last month, is a pitching enigma, a hurler possessed of dazzling but maddeningly inconsistent stuff. Singer’s stuff is less extraordinary but certainly good.
Lopez, the older of the two at 27 (Singer just turned 24 last month), battles occasional fits of wildness—although his control and command can be excellent, as his near perfect game proved, both vanish without notice, and with them goes the value of his stuff. Singer’s control suffers occasionally, but less often, an issue probably having more to do with his lack of experience—this is only his second professional season—than an inability to harness the problem.
Lopez’s moment of near perfection against the Twins was predictable; the kind of mastery Singer displayed against Cleveland Thursday was expected. And there’s a difference. His intermittently mesmerizing stuff means Lopez will be good now and then, but not consistently, while Singer’s stuff, not as electrifying as Lopez’s, is far more consistent. With Singer, excellence is more expected than sporadic.
This makes Singer eventually tossing a no-no more likely than Lopez ever doing so. It would be nice if both accomplished the feat, but it’s improbable.
Singer is already a more refined pitcher than Lopez and will be even better when he masters the changeup he’s working on, but doesn’t yet seem to trust enough to throw regularly. He relies now on a good four seamer and slider; when both work simultaneously like they did Thursday, Singer can be overwhelming. Mastery of the changeup could complete Singer.
Lopez is now gone from Kansas City. (He’s pitched six times for the Orioles; in three starts, he’s been tagged with 11 runs in 14.1 innings). He arrived in KC with promise but pitched questionably and inconsistently far more often than not. Between them, Lopez and the Royals just couldn’t find a place for him—he pitched well in the rotation and out of the bullpen, but the good simply and strangely didn’t outweigh the bad in either role.
Singer, on the other hand, won’t be going anywhere any time soon. But if past is prologue (and it usually is with these Royals) he’ll leave, probably reluctantly, when the franchise can’t (or won’t) compete with opportunities too lucrative for him to pass up.
Had performance matched promise and potential for Lopez, the Royals and their fans would have enjoyed him more than they did, and for much longer. Singer will last longer, and pitch better, in Kansas City. Assuming he performs as expected and measures up to what the club saw in him when they made him their first round pick in 2018’s draft, maybe the organization will find and expend the resources necessary to keep him.
But in case they don’t, and as he gets better, the KC Royals and their fans must appreciate him as long as he’s around.
Unfortunately, Jorge Lopez was rarely what the KC Royals expected. Brady Singer has every chance to be better.