Chris Archer entered this season like he enters every season: ready to flash a new and improved changeup.
Archer is able to manipulate his slider into distinct, hard and slow versions of the pitch, which gives him a three pitch mix, but flashing a solid changeup may be just what he needs to cross over from ace to elite.
Last season Archer showed a change just 8% of the time, almost exclusively to left-handed hitters. A righty only saw Archer’s change 8 times throughout all of 2017.
Now fast forward to last night: would we see the change?
It sure doesn’t look like we saw many.
Archer’s changeup should cluster somewhere lower on the vertical access and farther left than his fastball, which sits at the top of this chart with more than 10 inches of rise.
Brooks Baseball says three of those seven outliers to the left of his fastball were changeups, perhaps more were intended to be, but it’s not clear at a macro level. Archer flashed a change, but not many.
Two, however, came in the first inning.
The first change of the game was in a classic at bat against the left-handed Benintendi: Fastball away, fastball away, change up away for weak contact.
The second change, though, was more of a surprise, this time against the right-handed Hanley Ramirez in a 2-2 count.
Archer followed the change with a slider in the same location, this time fooling Hanley enough for the strikeout.
Same miles per hour, same location. Different pitch, different result.
Hanley didn’t swing at the changeup, after all the pitch was at his knees, but he sure thought about it and it set up his slider perfectly.
For Archer, the change has some serious depth (as seen by where Ramos caught it) and you would be excused for thinking it were a slider in the back-to-back GIF’s above, if not for the three-finger grip.
Here it is up close:
It’s a circle change, and a good one, if only Archer can throw it consistently, with command.
The third (and final) change of the game was a first pitch offering to Jackie Bradley Jr. for a weak grounder as well, not much unlike the third pitch to Benintendi in the first.
After that, no more changeups. So why not more?
Archer had used his changeup extensively in spring, to both hands, including in outings against the Red Sox, so perhaps he’s saving it for later. Or perhaps he still doesn’t trust the pitch against right handed hitters.
It’s hard to say whether Archer will match his eight changes to the same hand or not this season, but at least we have one good one to tally. We’ll be watching for more.