The Evolution of Chris Archer

By David Hill

Chris Archer had always been a talented, if somewhat enigmatic, pitcher. One of the top prospects in the Rays system, he was capable of high strikeout totals, yet typically walked more than four batters per 9 innings. Archer would be cruising along, then suddenly lose the strike zone, leading to rough innings and shorter outings.

That was certainly the case this season, both at Durham and upon being recalled to the Rays. In his first four starts this year, Archer only made it past the fifth inning once, and walked 14 batters in only 19.2 innings. No matter how talented a pitcher may be, that type of walk rate is completely unacceptable.

Then, something changed for Archer. He began trusting his stuff more, which helped him to be more aggressive with opposing hitters. He also started preparing in different ways, using methods such as meditation and trying not to overthink the situation to get outs.

"“I just close my eyes and go through all the hitters,” Archer said. “Not really specifically the hitters. I do a third-person point of view, so I see myself executing a pitch. And I also see myself from a first-person point of view, where I’m actually inside my own body doing it and feeling it. So I see myself do it, then I actually do it.”"

As different as these methods may be, it is hard to argue the results. Over his last seven starts, Archer has been a completely different pitcher, going 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA. Even more importantly, he has only walked eleven batters in 48 innings. While Archer’s strikeout rate has also decreased, that has been part of the trade off as he has begun working deeper into games and attacking the opposition.

Chris Archer had seemingly transformed into a different pitcher overnight. From a hard throwing rookie who seemed unsure of where the ball would end up once it left his hand, Archer has become a true pitcher, mixing his pitches and generating ground ball outs. Maybe all it took was for Archer to be able to clear his mind and relax.