KC Royals: Why final start matters little for Kris Bubic

(Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports) /

Brady Singer had nothing to prove when he took the mound against Cleveland Friday night. At 10-4 with a stingy 2.99 ERA, he’d already demonstrated this season that he’s finally worth the first round pick the KC Royals spent on him in the 2018 draft. Giving his team a chance to win and finishing the season with a sub-3.00 ERA were about the only things Singer had left to accomplish.

And he was well on the way to achieving both goals as he warmed up for the sixth inning at Progressive Field—staked to a 3-1 lead, he’d retired the Guardians in order three times, struck out six, and given up only two hits.

But that’s when things went bad for the pitcher who’d won seven of his last eight decisions. Cleveland slapped him for four straight hits—two singles, a homer and a double—to open the sixth and, when he gave way to reliever Carlos Hernández with two outs, the Guardians suddenly led 5-3. The American League Central Division champs ended up winning 6-3, with all their runs charged to Singer, runs that pushed his season-ending ERA to 3.23. It’s unlikely he’ll pitch again this year.

What importance does tonight’s start have for KC Royals hurler Kris Bubic?

Scheduled to start this evening against the Guardians, Kris Bubic is a dismal 2-13 with a 5.81 ERA (71 ERA+). That’s why, unlike Singer’s Friday outing, it’s hard to say what, if anything, significant is at stake for Kris Bubic in his last start of the year.

He can’t break, tie, or even come close to his career-best six wins. Even a nine-inning shutout won’t push his ERA below 5.00. He can avoid doubling the seven losses he suffered last season, but that’s not much to brag about.

And unless he throws a no-hitter, what he does tonight probably won’t alter whatever the Royals have planned for him in 2023.

That’s how bad Bubic’s season has been.

The Guardians drove him out of his first start of the campaign before he’d completed even an inning (he gave up five runs in two-thirds of a frame). The Royals sent him down to Triple-A Omaha for three weeks at one point. He didn’t win his first game until June 20; his second (and only other) victory, a fine seven-inning effort against Tampa Bay that helped the Royals escape last place for the first time in almost two months, came July 24, but he’s 0-7, 6.14 since. Opponents are batting .307 against him.

Win or lose, then, Bubic’s short term Royal future—this offseason and then spring training—is probably established. Now 9-26, 4.97 in 66 career appearances, he can expect Kansas City to put him on a winter regimen designed to improve everything and, barring the offseason acquisition of a couple of successful veteran starters, give him a shot at the 2023 rotation when the club convenes for spring training in February.

That shot, though, won’t last long if his current woes continue. The departure earlier this month of Dayton Moore suggests the degree of principal owner John Sherman’s patience isn’t infinite, which likely means subpar performances won’t be tolerated as much, or as long, as they have been.

Tonight won’t change the cub’s probable immediate plans for Bubic. But he’ll work hard and can make his bosses happy with a good performance.

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First pitch of this evening’s Kansas City-Cleveland game is set for 5:10 p.m. CDT.