Chris Archer Rapidly Becoming A Dependable Starter for the Rays

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays entered this year with what was suppoed to be one of the best rotations in baseball even with James Shields gone. And then the season started and everything went haywire. David Price, Alex Cobb, and Matt Moore have all spent time on the DL (not to mention Jeff Niemann) and Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto Hernandez have been ineffective almost the entire season. Can you name the one Rays pitcher that has done well and not landed on the DL? It’s rookie Chris Archer. While Archer’s development as a pitcher is still continuing at the big league level, he is already starting to prove himself as a starter the Rays can rely on.

So far this season, Archer is 7-5 with a 2.93 ERA, managing a 6.2 K/9, a 3.0 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9 in 16 starts and 95.1 innings pitched. The ERA is nice, but those strikeout, walk, and homer rates are a little iffy. But what those overall numbers don’t tell you is that Archer has really started to find himself in his last nine starts after throwing his pitches all over the plae in his first seven. In those nine starts, Archer is 5-2 with a 2.15 ERA, striking out 36 while walking 11 in 58.2 innings pitched. His K/9 has been He has struck out just 5.5 batters per 9 in that stretch, but he has walked just 1.7 and alloewd just a 0.7 HR/9. That’s nice, but his strikeout rate is still incredibly low. Is Archer really such a good pitcher?

When an ace heads to the mound without his best stuff, his team expects him to battle and put his team in a position to win nevertheless. Chris Archer has been doing that all season. Archer has two dynamic pitches, his mid-90’s fastball and sharp mid-80’s slider, and he has been attacking hitters with just those two offerings. But expect for when his command of both pitches is pinpoint, major league hitters aren’t fooled enough by them to strike out at high rates. So instead of trying to strike a ton of hitters out, risking leaving pitches in hittable locations as a result, Archer has been content to keep his pitches hittable and force weak contact. Instead of going up above the letters a strike a hitter out, he’ll keep the ball down knowing that hitters can’t do anything with it anyway. Instead of burying his slider down in the zone, Archer has more and more dropped in his slider for a strike knowing that as long as he doesn’t hang it, he can use it to force plenty of groundballs. This is not the ideal for Archer, but until he establishes his changeup as a third effective offering, this is who he is as a pitcher. However, given just how well he has pitched in the last couple months, the pitcher Archer is right now is still quite effective, and knowing that he should only get better from here should send chills down the spines of the rest of baseball.