For Chris Archer, Two Equals More
In an ideal world, a starting pitcher would come equipped with a minimum of three usable pitches, command and, the durability to pitch deep into 30-35 games a year. Realistically, there are maybe a handful of pitchers on the planet that can check all of these boxes. In lieu of having all the above, most get by with a mix of good and bad, with hope that the positive traits they possess are enough to override the negatives or voids.
Most analysts would tell you Chris Archer has some of these characteristics, but that his biggest pitfall is the lack of a third pitch. This is a half-truth. Archer’s changeup lacks behind his fastball and slider in terms of quality. In that sense he lacks a third individual pitch. In reality, the right-hander throws up to five unique pitches in a game.
Although he is often labeled as a two-pitch starter working primarily off the fastball and slider, Archer has evolved to the point where he can manipulate each pitches movement and command where they go. He has had this ability for a while now. By doing this, he turns those two pitches into multiple offerings and creates a huge problem for the opposition.
Archer’s illusionist talents took center stage in Toronto on Thursday. Facing a lineup stacked with sluggers, he allowed no runs on two hits and two walks while striking out 11 batters. He threw 109 pitches. According to ESPN Stats & Info, 100 of them were fastballs (53) or sliders (47). The numbers tell you he carved up the Jays with two pitches. The visuals show you he used at least four.
Against right-handed batters, which comprised most of John Gibbons’ lineups, he used his fastball inside and threw mostly traditional sliders; starting in the middle of the plate and sweeping away. There are a handful of front door sliders as well.
When facing lefties, Archer went to the inverse. Most of his fastballs were thrown on the first-base side of the plate with the slider knocking on the back door.
In some cases having two really good pitches can be better than three especially when you can make them look like four.