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Rays Season Preview: Chris Archer

The young right-handed fireballer looks to take another step forwarding 2015

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2014: 32 starts, 10-9, 194.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 92 ERA-, 1.279 WHIP, 21.1 K%, 8.8 BB%, 3.1 fWAR

2015 PECOTA Projections: 29 starts, 12-11, 183 IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 1.0 WAR

2015 ZiPS Projections: 30 starts, 11-9, 170 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR

In April 2014, the Tampa Bay Rays extended Chris Archer through 2019 (with $20 million in team options for 2020 and 2021) after just 158 innings pitched in the major leagues. For the always budget conscious Rays, it represented significant long-term investment in an electrifying right-hander and team leader. On the cusp of the 2015 season, it appears Archer could prove to be a bargain.

Entering his age-26 season, and suddenly the Opening Day starter, Archer has seen his fly-ball percentage, infield fly ball percentage, and home run to fly ball ratio improve each season in the big leagues.

The owner of a career 21.1% strikeout percentage and nearly 50% ground ball rate, he already has two seasons of a 92 ERA- or better. Archer is still putting it all together, and as one national sportswriter encouraged this week, "get on the Chris Archer bandwagon while you can.

Not all is perfect on the bandwagon, though, including my continuation of the bandwagon idiom. Editor's note: It's a poor transition, yes.

Archer's ERA and ERA- rose from 2013 to 2014 with his +66 innings increase. Perhaps more worrisome, Archer's line-drive percentage have increased along with his workload. After surrendering line drives 18.3% of the time in 2012, that number had risen to 19.1% in 2013, before climbing again to 22.4% last season.

Unlike fellow reconfigured rotation front man Alex Cobb, Archer relies primarily on his impressive two-seam and four-seam fastballs, throwing them combined nearly two-third of the time (65.85%) in 2014. His average velocity tops 95 mph for both. Overall, Archer has been remarkably consistent with his fastball usage versus right-handers (63% of pitches) and left-handers (64%) in his career.

However, Archer saw slightly diminished results with four-seam and two-seam fastballs in 2014, both in velocity and results. This came on the heels of improved results from 2012 to 2013.


Four-Seam Fastball

Pitch Frequency

Avg. Velo



















Two-Seam Fastball

Pitch Frequency

Avg. Velo


















Like his rising line-drive percentage, Archer's diminished results from his fastballs, however slim to this point, remains worth watching in 2015.

While Archer's fastballs garner most of the attention, with good cause, his slider could be quietly the most devastating pitch in his arsenall. In 2013 and 2014, Archer his slider with the second most frequency. And at 87.08 mph in 2014, Archer has added more than three miles per hour to his slider since his 2012 rookie campaign. Last season, 53% of his strikeouts (91 of 173) came via the slider, as he threw it nearly 50% of the time with two strikes.


Pitch Frequency

Avg. Velo


















As good as his slider is against all hitters, it has somehow been even better against left-handed hitters, who produced a .186 AVG and .254 SLG in 2014. The continued otherworldly effectiveness of his slider could be the key to another three win season, if not more.

Keep An Eye On...

In 2014, Archer was better on the road (.626 OPS against and 1.196 WHIP) than he was at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field (.678 OPS against and 1.380 WHIP). Archer experienced some home struggles, including four starts in which he gave up at least five earned runs.

Also of interest is Archer's performance against the Boston Red Sox . In six starts in 2013-2014, Archer was 0-4, with a 6.14 ERA and 1.773 WHIP. Of course, few pitchers had success against the 2013 Red Sox offense that led the league in runs scored. 2014's version, though, finished eleventh in the AL in runs scored, and Archer still put up a 6.53 ERA and 1.645 WHIP. They have his number, and the match up has a history.

2015 Archer might reprimand the 2013 rookie self that kissed the bicep, but that damage was done long ago. These are rivals now. With the two teams expected to battle for the AL East title, Archer's starts could be crucial to the Rays playoff. chances.


With David Price's departure, Archer finds himself entering the season as Tampa Bay's second-most experienced starting pitcher by innings pitched. And as mentioned above, with Alex Cobb sidelined with forearm tightness, he's also the Opening Day starter.

PECOTA and Zips have typically conservative projects for Archer. Both predict a decrease in innings pitched and an increase in base runners and ERA. Whether that comes to pass depends more on how the young gun develops, but he's earned praise all Spring with a strong showing from day one in camp.

With his blazing fastballs, nasty slider, and the team's faith of a long-term deal, and presence as a community leader, expect Archer to be leading the Rays rotation in 2015 and beyond.