By: Noah Wright
Chris Archer was a good #2 pitcher for most MLB teams in 2013-2015. He put up consistently similar ERA’s in that time, having 3.22 ERA in ‘13, a 3.33 ERA in ‘14, and a 3.23 ERA in ‘15 with the TB Rays. In total, he had a 3.26 ERA, 3.36 FIP, and 1.176 WHIP in that time span, while also posting decent strikeout and walk numbers. Then, something seemed to change. After 2015, he stopped putting up ERA’s below 3.30. Between 2016 and 2017, he pitched to a combined ERA of 4.05, and 3.60 FIP. Though his strikeout and walk numbers improved, he was giving up more runs. This season was likely the worst in his career. In 148 and a third innings split between the Rays and Pirates, he gave them a 4.31 ERA, 3.75 FIP, and 1.375 WHIP.
However, there is a potential beacon of hope that Archer can return to his former self in 2019. The Pirates have to regain and fine tune one pitch Archer hasn’t used for years, the sinker. According to Fangraphs, Archer used his sinker 41% of the time in 2014, one of his best seasons. That was the last time he used that pitch. But the Pirates have seemed to recognize that he used the sinker in some of his best seasons. By the end of 2018, he was using the pitch above 15% of the time.
That 15% increase seemed to really help his performance. For the last month of 2018, Archer recorded a 2.90 ERA, 3.49 FIP, and opponent OPS of just .678. It can’t just be a coincidence that once Archer started using his sinker pitch more often, his performance became much better.
Chris Archer could be a rebound performer for the Pirates in 2019. The return of the sinker ball into Archer’s arsenal gives the right hander another pitch to play with. Though it’ll be hard for him to recapture that 3.26 average ERA he had between 2013-2015, he should still be an effective rotation arm during the 2019 season if he can stay healthy. Plus, the Pirates have a history of turning pitcher’s careers around, and Archer could be the next one on that list along with A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, and Edinson Volquez.