Texas Tech Hitters Find Way To Handle Brady Singer
OMAHA, Neb.—Brady Singer’s place in Florida baseball history is already assured.
He’s one of the best pitchers ever for a program that produces pitcher after pitcher. He already has a championship ring from last year that he helped play a large role in earning.
But even as he shoved against team after team this year, there were scouts who raised concerns. The report would generally start by acknowledging that Singer is a very solid pitcher. Scouts loves his command and control. They were quite happy with his ability to locate a fastball he could sink, run or elevate. But those same scouts would then speculate about whether he’d ever develop a true swing-and-miss pitch. It’s one of the reasons he slid to the 18th pick in the first round where the Royals snapped him up.
Those concerns were very apparent Sunday in the College World Series, as Singer picked an unfortunate time for his worst start of the season. After cruising through four innings, Singer ran into trouble in the middle innings because he couldn’t finish off hitters.
Nowhere was Singer’s struggles to generate swings and misses more apparent than during an epic at-bat by Texas Tech first baseman Cameron Warren in the fifth inning. Warren took a first-pitch strike and fouled off a fastball for a quick 0-2 count. But Warren then fouled off eight more pitches and took three balls before finally lining out.
“I think what really kicked it off to me was Cameron Warren,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “He runs his pitch count up. That was just an at-bat that really set the inning up as far as that goes.”
The 14-pitch at-bat didn’t result in a hit, but it did erase any aura of Singer’s invincibility. While an inopportune error didn’t help Singer, five of the next eight Red Raiders batters lined hits.
Singer’s defense betrayed him repeatedly. A passed ball helped lead to Texas Tech’s first run. A Deacon Liput error kept Singer from getting out of the fifth inning. Gabe Holt followed with a ground ball to first baseman J.J. Schwarz that Schwarz should have been able to backhand, but it kicked off his glove to allow two runs to score.
But SInger also gave up nine hits and two earned runs to go with the three unearned runs. For the final two innings of his outing, he was like a veteran fighter who kept getting squared up while trying to figure out a way to survive.
“I knew he was going to try to pound the zone probably early and often,” Texas Tech’s Grant Little said. “He’s always been around the zone. He was living on the outside part of the plate. And I just tried to make an adjustment and put a couple of good swings on some balls.”
Early in his outing, Singer was in control as he took advantage of the Red Raiders’ patience. Texas Tech came out looking to work the count. Singer was throwing so many strikes that it quickly proved to be a fruitless approach.
Texas Tech hitters took five called strikes in a very speedy first inning , five more in an equally quick second and four more in the third. Singer had three strikeouts in those three innings, all on taken third-strike fastballs.
But the second time through the order, Texas Tech realized that Singer’s command was much too good to keep the bats on their shoulder. After taking 14 strikes from their first 10 batters, Texas Tech took only six more called strikes over Singer’s last 17 at-bats. And all six of those called strikes came early in counts. With two strikes, Texas Tech stayed aggressive and it paid off.
Against more aggressive hitters Singer struggled to find a Plan B. He broke off a couple of quality sliders in the first inning, but it was a very inconsistent, below-average pitch for most of the night. Too often he left the ball up. Singer got only one swing and miss on his slider in 99 pitches. He got only two swings and misses with his fastball.
More often, Texas Tech made contact. By Baseball America’s unofficial count the Red Raiders fouled off 13 Singer fastballs and put another 12 in play. They also fouled off three sliders and put six in play.
Singer’s best pitch at times on Sunday proved to be his changeup, which he uses very sparingly and almost exclusively against lefthanded hitters. Singer’s circle change doesn’t have much velocity separation, as it generally comes in only 5-6 mph slower than his fastball, but it has excellent late fade. By BA’s count, Singer only threw 13 changeups all night, but five of those were swung at and missed.
The Red Raiders beat up Singer in a way no other team had all season. For Singer to get another chance to pitch as a Gator, he’ll have to hope that his teammates can help them advance through the losers' bracket.