After what has been often called his “best spring training ever,” Chris Archer turned in his “best opening-day start ever,” giving the Rays seven innings of two-run baseball. Archer struck out five batters, while giving up seven hits and one walk.
Let’s take a look at his stuff. Yesterday, Archer threw 108 pitches, with 50 of them being fastballs, 42 being sliders, and 16 being changeups. You can find their action in the table and graphs below.
Data is from baseballsavant.com. Classifications are my own.
Chris Archer Pitches, 4.2.17
The main reason to pull pitch action in the first start of the season is to look for differences, and there’s really not a lot of difference to be found here.
Velocity is very slightly down across the board from 2016, but that’s to be expected in the early season. Archer’s changeup was logged at about 1.5 inches more run than it did in 2016, but all of the pitch movements are shifted left slightly, so I don’t read much into it, other than that it’s a new year with newly-calibrated radar.
Pretty much, this looks like the same Chris Archer we had last season—a pitcher with a great fastball-slider combination who has developed a very legitimate changeup.
Now here’s the interesting part. Go ahead and filter to show just the sliders. Or look below where I’ve done it for you.
There’s a 10 mph range in speed from his fastest to his slowest slider.
That’s, uh, a lot.
We noticed last year how the Rays pitchers seemed to be playing with different speeds of the same pitch. Kevin Antonevich did an excellent job looking for the bimodality on Archer’s slider, and it did seem like there was something there, but I don’t think it’s ever been as clearly displayed as it was yesterday afternoon.
A 92 mph slider and an 82 mph slider with identical movement are very different pitches. In a vacuum, the 92 mph slider is the better pitch. But there is no spin deflection in a vacuum.
Once Archer gets another game under his belt I’m going to start separating these into hard sliders and slow sliders, with the goal of better understanding the interaction between them and with the rest of Archer’s arsenal.
Buckets are sometimes arbitrary, so call it three-and-a-half or four pitches as you please. What’s already clear is that while Archer came into the league as a strictly two-pitch pitcher, he’s now much more than that.
Read More: Chris Archer looked dominant on Opening Day