Chris Archer, the ace of the Rays staff, has not had the best start to the season. Through his first four starts of 2018, he held a 7.84 ERA with 18 earned runs in 20.2 IP (26 H, 9 BB, 24 SO). Something had to change for Archer to settle down into his old self.
We just didn’t know how old.
In his following start against Minnesota, Archer’s fifth on the season, the Rays starter made it into the seventh inning for the first time in 2018, allowing only 2 ER and 5 baserunners with 5 K’s. There were surely many contributing factors do his dominant performance, but one of those was the resurrection of Archer’s sinker.
Brooks recorded two sinkers in the chart above, and that’s probably right, as they make adjustments for discrepancies found in the data. Archer’s sinker is easy to find because it’s shaped a lot like his change up, but it comes in some 10 MPH faster.
The cluster of “change ups” in the raw data have some mistakes (you’ll see a slider coded in there) but somewhere in that bunch are two pitches that looked like changes but were really 96 MPH (probably in this red circle):
To verify, I went to Baseball Savant and pulled the spreadsheet for Archer’s 4/20 start, and sure enough, there does seem to be two sinkers:
Archer threw both highlighted pitches on a 0-1 count, with the top result producing a groundball, and the other a swinging strike. Both are coded as four-seamers, but the speed and horizontal movement seem to say otherwise.
Chris Archer has had a pretty sizable difference between his ERA and FIP since 2014, and before the season, Jim Turvey noted that all started when the sinker disappeared. It’s too soon to say whether the sinker is conclusively back or whether it’s been hiding there all along, but it’s certainly something to watch for in his next outing.