Chris Archer Tosses Shutout | The Process Report

Chris Archer Tosses Shutout

According to Chris Archer, Sunday’s outing against the Astros was the game of his life. Considering Archer had never pitched more than seven innings as a professional, a complete-game shutout qualifies as such. For good measure, he also notched eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter for the second straight game. The 112 pitches he used was also a career-high. The 71 percent strike rate was also a career-best, and continued a recent trend of encouragement from the talented right-hander.

Development at the major league level, something Archer has been forced to do this season because of injuries in the rotation, is a difficult thing. With that said, the Rays recent soft schedule has been a blessing for the 24-year-old. It’s much easier to work the kinks out when facing the Astros and Twins than it is facing the Tigers or Red Sox. Although the quality of talent has been lesser recently, the results are logged in major league record books. And the confidence of achieving those results at the highest level could have long-lasting impact; especially for a self-proclaimed over-thinker like Archer.

“That’s the kind of game that a young starter could really grow from”  said Rays’ manager Joe Maddon. “I always talk about ‘a mind once stretched, has a difficult time going back to its original form. That’s a situational moment as a baseball player—you stretch yourself out to a complete game as a younger starter, that could really open up a lot of doors for you mentally.”

Aside from the mental gains, there are may also be physical benefits for Archer to take away from the last few games. Perhaps the most important piece of development for Archer is control and command of the fastball. Regardless of his ultimate role – front-end starter or back-end reliever – he will need to throw the fastball for strikes. He also needs to locate it in areas of the strike zone where damage can be limited if a hitter puts good wood on the ball.

Over his last three starts, Archer is throwing strikes with the heater (and overall). Drilling it down a bit more, it appears as if the increased control may have to do with the type of fastball he is throwing. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Archer has been throwing a lot more four-seam fastballs recently in lieu of two-seamers.

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In general, four-seam fastballs have less movement that two-seamers. For a pitcher like Archer, who struggled with arm-side fastballs that moved a bit too much at times, the four-seam may be a better choice; at least until he learns to corral the movement on the two-seamer. Process Report contributor Eric Knott said he relied on his four-seam fastball when he needed a strike or pinpoint location because “you feel like you have more grip on the baseball and the movement is more predicable.”

Aside from throwing more strikes, Archer is putting heaters in different places within the strike zone. In the past, he worked mostly arm-side with the fastball due to natural run. Coinciding with the apparent change in selection has been an increased ability or willingness to work glove-side or inside to left-handed batters. Knott said pitchers are sometimes afraid to pitch to their glove-side with two-seamers out of fear it will move back toward the middle of the plate. However, once a pitcher becomes comfortable with his two-seamer, Knott said “you can throw the ball at someone’s hip and bring it back in to catch the corner” and cited Greg Maddux as an example.

Being able to pitch on both sides of the plate is something R.J. Anderson looked at recently. In theory, opening up all quadrants of the zone, should lead to increased effectiveness on all offerings as one becomes less predictable. For Archer, the threat of a glove-side fastball may open the back door for his changeup on the outside corner to left-handed batters and potentially lock up some righties on the hands.

The off-speed pitch remains Archer’s third offering in quality and quantity. That said over the last 10 days or so, the pitch’s effectiveness has been measured. Though he has thrown less than 40 changeups in that time, they have been responsible for 10 outs. He also has not allowed a hit with the changeup in any of his three most recent starts.

For the more visual mind, here is a example of what Houston’s left-handed batters had to prepare for…

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Archer threw 37 fastballs to left-handed batters. Of those, 25 were located middle or in. On the flip side, he threw lefties 12 changeups; 11 of them on the outer half of the plate.

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Immediately out of the All-Star break Archer will be tested by higher quality lineups. He is slated to make his first start against the Blue Jays in Toronto before taking the hill against the Yankees in the Bronx. Though the level of competition will be different, the lessons learned over the past few weeks – throwing strikes in repetition and increased confidence – should give Archer an added degree of difficulty as an opponent.

Data and visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.



5 Comments

  1. […] 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 slider. The offering is highly regarded and […]

  2. […] sentiment following a recent start of his own flame-throwing, right-hander Chris Archer. Maddon said “I always talk about ‘a mind once stretched, has a difficult time going back to its […]

  3. […] a recent trend, Archer led with his four-seam fastball on Friday while using the two-seamer in an auxiliary […]

  4. […] shown the ability to run the heater on the inner half as well as down in the zone. This could be in part to using a four-seam fastball along with a two-seamer that traditionally has more movement. Instead […]

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