Chris Archer has been known as a successful starter who can get by with only two pitches because they are both exceptional. His slider may be the best pitch in baseball for a multitude of reasons, while his fastball has plus velocity to go with above average vertical movement.
If we take a closer look at his fastball usage, we see that he regularly throws both the two and four seam varieties. And while they both average just under 95 mph, the movement on the pitches is very different. This essentially gives Archer two completely different, equally electric pitches to complement his slider. This chart provide some insight:
|Pitch||2014 Usage %||2015 Usage %||*Hmov||*Vmov|
*Movements on pitches are from years they were the dominant pitch. 2014 for the two seam, 2015 for the four seam.
There are a few things to note here. Archer used the two seam fastball in 2014 as his primary pitch, and that much horizontal run was a thing of beauty at such high velocities, as shown in the last two outs of this fantastic outing:
But Archer's game elevated to another level in 2015, almost literally. Instead of relying on the running two seamer as his primary pitch, he reverted back to earlier career fastball usage rates and relied on his four seamer to get the job done. He traded almost 4.5" of run for an extra 3" of rise.
The additional use of the rising four seamer may have played perfectly off of the insane drop of his hard slider. While the slider dropped 9" from the two seamer in 2014, that gap increased to 11" off the rising four seamer in 2015.
Faced with a 95 mph fastball and 88 mph slider, batters couldn't decide quickly enough whether the ball was going to drop under the zone, or rise above it.
Swinging strike rates jumped, leading to a huge increase in strikeout rate. Archer notched 252 strikeouts over 212 innings in 2015, far more than ever before. And though many of those were victims of his deadly slider, there are a few good shots of just how good that rising fastball was in this outing:
So while on the surface we see Archer as a guy with two dominant pitches, he's hidden the fact that one of those pitches was completely different in 2014. This is what happens when you follow The Rays Way.