Is Chris Archer Among Major League Baseball’s Best Pitchers?

By Drew Jenkins

The Tampa Bay Rays somehow seem to put together a rotation every year that includes some of the past pitchers in the league. In the past it’s been the likes of Scott Kazmir and James Shields, and now it’s David Price. Is Chris Archer quickly becoming one of the league’s best pitchers?

Archer started out this season on a bad note, putting up an ugly 5.16 ERA through his first 8 starts. He seemingly had no command of his pitches at times, and that was leading to him getting hit hard almost every time out. At that point, it looked like the Rays might have jumped the gun a bit on signing Archer to a long-term extension. But since then, Archer has been lights out. Over his last 40.2 innings and 7 starts, Archer has allowed just 4 earned runs, and despite the terrible start to the year his ERA now sits at 3.14- an outstanding mark. Over that time frame, hitters are batting just .203/.315/.236 against Archer, and for the most part he has showcased great command of all of his pitches. Archer has certainly looked like one of the best pitchers in the league over that time frame, but he has to prove that he can do it over an extended period of time.

Stuff-wise, Archer’s is among the best in the league. This year Archer’s fastball has averaged 94.5 MPH, which is good for 6th in the league. Archer will throw it as a 4-seamer and a 2-seamer, and they are basically two different pitches. The 4-seamer features more horizontal action, while the 2-seamer has devastating downward sink on it. Both pitches are easily plus when Archer can command them. He also compliments them with an equally devastating slider that is among the best breaking balls in baseball. Archer will also rarely throw his changeup, but it has been graded as an above-average pitch. However, he uses his 2-seamer as a more effective groundball inducing pitch than his changeup, and thus he does not need to use the changeup often. All-in-all, Archer’s stuff is about as good as any other pitcher in the league.

The reason that Archer currently isn’t considered as good as the likes of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and other top pitchers is his command. As he has shown, when it is on he is almost unhittable, but there are also times where Archer struggles to locate his pitches, and that leads to him struggling mightily. To be able to contend for a Cy Young award, Archer is going to have to hone in his consistency of his command. He has done that in his last 7 starts, but the question remains if he can continue it long-term.

The Tampa Bay Rays may not have provided too many reasons to be excited over the past couple of months, but Chris Archer is certainly one. He may not be among the league’s best pitchers quite yet, but he is not far off and that has shown in his past few starts. If he can make the necessary improvements to be considered an annual Cy Young threat remains to be seen, but right now the Rays have a young pitcher with all the talent in the world on the hands and they are working hard to turn it into consistent results.