Chris Archer Gets Primal | The Process Report

Chris Archer Gets Primal

One of the keys to Chris Archer’s development is the growth of his changeup. It was one of the things the Rays wanted him to work out in Durham before the would allow him to come up to the majors for good. Unfortunately injuries at the big-league have forced them to throw a few starters—Archer included—into the fire before they are fully seasoned.

Archer made his season debut with the Rays on June 1 against the Indians. He allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks. It took him 94 pitches to record 12 outs. Looking at his pitch selection, Archer was very fond of his changeup. In fact, he may have warmed up to the pitch too much. Cleveland notched four hits on the off-speed offering including two home runs. He threw nearly as many changeups (17) as he did sliders (23) which is generally regarded as his best pitch.

Over his next three starts, Archer continued his attempt to work as a three-pitch starter. Fastballs accounted for more than half of his pitches with the slider coming in second in usage. The much talked about changeup was thrown around 16 percent of the time.

The results of those starts were mixed. He threw a gem against the Orioles, but struggled against the divison-leading Red Sox in a pair of starts. His issues against Boston were more control related than anything else as he allowed just five runs over the two games. Meanwhile, he lasted just eight and two-thirds innings. The changeup was an innocent bystander for the most part as control and command was the main offender.

In his most recent two starts—including Saturday against the Tigers—Archer has changed his selection a bit; perhaps in hopes to gain a better feel for the heater. Getting “primal” as Joe Maddon would say, the 24-year-old has been on a two-pitch power trip over the last week. Of the 186 pitches he has thrown in his last two starts, one of them was classified as a changeup by ESPN Stats & Info. He threw fastballs and sliders exclusively against the Tigers.

The results of those two starts were generally positive. He allowed four earned runs to the Yankees and Tigers in 11 combined innings, and he struck out just seven batters while walking four. Despite the walks, he received an increased of called strikes and hit the zone more often. As a trade-off, he missed fewer bats, meaning more balls in play.

It is generally accepted that a major-league starter needs at least three pitches to succeed; however, there are outliers. Looking specifically at the fastball slash slider combination, Ervin Santana has had a fair amount of success at the big-league level using the combo over 90 percent of the time.

With Alex Cobb on the disabled list, and Alex Colome returning to Durham, we should get a larger sample size on Archer’s selection. It is possible the alteration was based on matchups. Or it may have been an attempt to simplify the plan by putting the focus back on his best pitches. It would stand to reason that Archer, the organization, or both decided to temporarily shelve the off-speed pitch instead of trying to force development at the highest level.

We don’t know Archer’s recent usage is an indication for the future, but it does warrant some extra attention.

Data courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.


  1. […] that operate in this way. Archer doesn’t have the confidence in his third offering yet to righties as detailed by Tommy Rancel, but he’s on an island as every other pitcher throws the change at least 10% of the time with […]

  2. […] worked primarily off the fastball while mixing in both of his secondary offerings. After taking a back seat for a few starts, the changeup has made it’s way back into the pitcher’s rotation. He threw a fair […]

  3. […] recent weeks, I have written at length about Archer. I’ve talked about his changeup, his fastball command and mental growth. The one piece of his game that I have ignored is his […]

  4. […] the past, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon has used the word “primal” to describe a pitcher getting back to the basics. In most cases this means getting back to a […]

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