For the second time in three years, the Rays’ charismatic ace will be headed to the Midsummer Classic to represent Tampa Bay and the Rays.
The 28-year-old former 5th-round pick has seen his star rise nearly continuously for the better part of the past decade. Despite the rather late draft slot, Archer honed his game in the Cleveland system for two years before being dealt to the Chicago Cubs. Archer really broke out in the Chicago system, becoming their number one prospect by the 2010 season before he was dealt to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal.
After less than two full seasons in the Rays system, he made his big league debut. If you need a refresher on his debut, you can find it here. Note the wicked slider, and note as well that he “lost” this game, despite an outstanding performance. Vintage Archer from his very first game.
Archer improved his bWAR total in each of his first four seasons, peaking with a 2015 season in which he posted an ERA of 3.23 and finished fifth in the Cy Young vote despite a 12-13 record - a minor miracle given voting tendencies of the past.
While Archer slipped a bit last season, he still topped 200 innings, made 33 starts, and struck out well over 200 batters. Since his debut, impressive innings and strikeout totals have been his most notable accomplishments.
No pitcher has made more starts than Archer (118) since the start of the 2014 season, with Max Scherzer tied for the lead. If we use innings pitched as the measuring stick, Archer slips to eighth in that time, but that is due at least in part to the Rays love for avoiding the third and fourth time through the order when a pitcher doesn’t have his best stuff. The list of pitchers with more strikeouts since 2014? It’s a veritable who’s who of the most highly-touted arms in baseball. It goes Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, and then our boy Archer.
It’s not often that Archer’s name is spoken in the same breath as those guys, but it’s about time it is. He’s fifth in baseball in fWAR this season, trailing those exact four names from the previous list. In terms of strikeouts per nine this season, it’s the same four studs ahead of him, with Robbie Ray also added into the mix this time. Sure, Archer’s ERA (3.95) is a bit higher than each of the Killer Quad noted before, but FIP is far more determinant of future success, and by FIP there are only six better starters than Archer this season (McCullers and Strasburg join the Killer Quad this time).
In sum, even if Archer has lagged in the most familiar (if suspect) metrics of ERA and wins, he has been among the most consistent and durable starters over the course of his career.
We in the Tampa Bay area, and increasingly those across the country and around the world, also know that Archer is an 80 grade human being. His charitable work began well before he signed his first big contract, and he continues to focus his philanthropic efforts in his North Carolina home town as well as the Tampa - St. Pete area. MLB has tapped him to serve as an ambassador for the sport both in outreach to under-served urban communities and in international trips to Taiwan and South Africa.
He is a passionate competitor, bouncing and bopping around the mound like a kid who got into the sugar cabinet while the parents were away for the weekend. He is a fabulous team player who advocates for his teammates, and takes seriously the role of mentor. Heck, he even called out David Ortiz for his juvenile behavior, something that ought to endear him to every Rays fan.
From his very first call-up he has shown himself to be a thoughtful observer of the game. Any chance to hear him interviewed is a treat. Apparently we are not the only ones to notice, as ESPN had him in the broadcast booth for some 2015 and 2016 postseason coverage, where he earned high critical acclaim. Of course, we very much hope he won’t be available for broadcast duties this October!
Just look at how he got to the All-Star Game this year, how can you not love this guy?
The Rays are lucky to have one of the best and most entertaining pitchers in baseball, and even better, one of the best men in baseball.