Make no mistake about it, Chris Archer left a lot to be desired on the mound through his first six starts. His strikeout and base-on-ball percentages may have looked a little sexier, but they weren’t leading to success every fifth day. When April concluded, Archer sported a 6.61 ERA with a slash-line against of .304/.361/.522 and .378 wOBA allowed in 32.2 IP (41 H, 11 BB, 36 SO). Something had to change for Archer to settle down into his old self.
That “change” began with his change up, a pitch that’s never been fully integrated into his repertoire but one that we have discussed that, if effective, could ascend Chris Archer into the elite category of pitchers again.
Archer began 2018 by throwing just 4.94 percent of his pitches change ups. Trying to integrate the change up into his arsenal, that number rose to 11.55 percent in mid-April, but it did not equate to good results as the opposition hit and slugged .333 against Archer’s change up.
Showing great confidence in himself, Archer continued to show out the change up. In May, Archer threw the change a respectable 10.43 percent of the time, holding hitters to a .133 BA and .200 SLG.
Chris Archer, Nasty 88mph Changeup (grip/release/spin). pic.twitter.com/y5J71RCh3L— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 26, 2018
The pitch has spurred a three-game quality start streak and a May slash-line of .204/.278/.321 with a 2.33 ERA and .268 wOBA in 38.2 IP (28 H, 13 BB, 34 SO). So great have been those results that Eno Sarris recently ranked Archer’s change as the eighth best in baseball.
In February, our very own Carl Gonzales highlighted Archer’s ability to perform at a very high level with two plus-plus pitches alone, but noted he does so without having a lot of room for error.
When Archer’s much-discussed change up is working, he has much more. A respectable change up for Archer has proven to elevate his game because it opens up doors for his premier pitches - his electric fastball and filthy slider.
The statistics back up the claim, too. In May, Archer held hitters to a .367 SLG off his fastball, compared to a .641 SLG in Mar/Apr. He also saw more success with his slider, holding hitters to a .306 SLG with it compared to a .535 in Mar/Apr.
Chris Archer, Filthy 89 mph Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 6, 2018
And sticks the single lutz for a pic.twitter.com/l6oQvq3x19
After a rough first month of the 2018 campaign, the Rays’ dread-locked ace looks to be on the right path to re-establish his ace persona.
Along with Blake Snell and a forward-thinking innings approach by Rays executives, Archer has helped spearhead the Rays to a 25-15 record since April 16 and a one game over .500 (28-27) after trading the likes of Evan Longoria, Steven Souza Jr., Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson this past off season, and recently Alex Colome and Denard Span. In a short while, they could also be receiving reinforcements of youth to complement an already potent offense as Bauers, Adames, and more promotions are on the horizon in 2018/2019.
The rebuild, along with Chris Archer’s regenerated change up, is looking pretty, pretty good.
Chris Archer will take the mount on Saturday night in Seattle on June 2nd.