The KC Royals have found better success away from Kauffman Stadium so far this season. The team nearly has a.500 record on the road while posting a 1-12 record at home in 2023. Kauffamn is traditionally kinder to pitchers, and pitcher Brady Singer is no exception. Eight of his ten wins last season came at home, with a 1.23 difference in his ERA. That is one reason his dominant start on Tuesday was even more surprising. But, his success in Arizona came off the smallest of details that had a big impact.
Singer logged his first quality start of the 2023 season, pitching six innings with five strikeouts and just one earned run. It was a great outing from the starting pitcher, something that the Royals did not have in the series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks. What was new for Singer, who entered Tuesday's game with a disappointing 1-2 record and an 8.14 ERA, was a different grip on his slider.
A slight change for KC Royals pitcher Brady Singer had fans singing his praises after Tuesday's quality start.
“We actually changed the whole thing, and [pitching coach Brian] Sweeney came to me and said try this group, and we started tinkering with it a little bit, and it was much, much better tonight,” Singer said postgame. "It's a completely new pitch. It's a different grip and it's still throwing it the same way, but I think the metrics are a little bit different."
To Singer's point, the metrics are very different. Singer nearly doubled the amount of horizontal break on the slider, from four inches to seven inches. MLB.com reporter Anne Rogers also noted the pitch's varying velocity, something that Singer said was intentional. Singer averaged 82.0 MPH with the slider Tuesday but dipped as low as 78.8 or as high as 85.5. That wide range of velocity was key to Singer's dominant performance.
“I just wasn’t happy with it the last outing,” Singer said. “I have a pretty good feel for my slider, and I just felt that there was a way to make it better. We sat down and talked about it, and they came up with that. It worked out really well. That’s what I was happy about, being able to move it around and make it bigger or smaller and all that. It was a good pitch for me tonight."
Arizona pitchers swung 22 times at Singer's slider, whiffing on seven such swings. In total, Singer recorded a 35% Called Strike Plus Whiff Rate (CSW). If you need a reference, that is better than his 2022 mark (32.9%), when his slider was the best among all Royals starters and one of the best in the league.
Changes were needed for Singer's slider this early in the season, as evident by opposing batters hammering that and his slider. This outing was so exciting because this is the pitcher fans saw late in 2022 and wanted him to be paid like the staff's ace. While one performance should not dictate an entire season, there are two key takeaways for Royals fans.
First, this shows the new pitching coaches are quick to diagnose issues and get buy-in from the pitchers. The slow-moving process of any pitching arsenal changes was a key complaint of the previous itching coaches. Sweeney and assistant coach Zach Bove brought in a more analytical approach to the Royals pitchers, and are applying that in-season. It may seem like a small thing, but making a clear change work that quickly is extraordinary.
Second, this shows that these younger pitchers are still learning and are malleable. The saying goes that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. While Singer is not even at three years of service time, he isn't a rookie anymore. It would be unsurprising if the previous coaching regime instilled several bad habits into him, ones that he found hard to lose. But, his recounting of how the grip change came to pass is refreshing and another positive mark for these Royals during the 2023 evaluation season.