InstaReaction: Chris Archer
Six innings. Five hits. Zero walks. Zero runs. 10 strikeouts. Tonight was easily Chris Archer‘s best outing of the season and his best outing since one-hitting Houston on August 20th. There are a few takeaways from tonight’s outing that aren’t going to show up in the line score.
RH on RH Changeups
Through the first three games, Archer threw 10 changeups to righties on the heels of a 2014 when he did so just 11 times. For his career, Archer had generated just five swings and misses with changeups to righties. Tonight, he doubled that. The first time through the lineup, he used that changeup once he got ahead of batters to get the Orioles to swing over the top of the pitch as it ranged between 89 and 91 with late fade below the bottom of the strike zone. The four lowest red dots on the pitch plot below were each swinging strikes, two of which were by Adam Jones, while the one low and away was to Mark Trumbo.
The RH on RH change is nothing new in Tampa Bay, but it is relatively new for Archer. Eno Sarris wrote about the increased RH on RH change usage league-wide earlier this month and Archer has apparently decided to join in on the fun. Overall, Archer threw a career-high 20 changeups in this start and the 6 swings and misses also set a new career-high mark.
Improved Fastball Command…With Room For Improvement
Archer threw 31 of 47 fastballs for strikes tonight, inducing 20 swings at the pitch and 2 swings and misses. The 66% strikes he generated with his fastball tonight was his highest strike percentage of the season. That percentage doesn’t reflect where the fastballs ended up tonight as the pitch was elevated most of the night and several were well out of the zone as he struggled with his arm-side command
2015 Slider Is Still AWOL
Archer threw 26 sliders tonight and five were swung on and missed. Of those five, one was a horrible chase by Jonathan Schoop while another one was a well-executed 2-2 slide piece to Chris Davis down and out of the zone. The other three swings and misses came on sliders up. Four of the six sliders put in play were also of the elevated variety.
The telling sign was that the Orioles only chased two sliders fully out of the zone all night whereas most of the lineup spit on most of the sliders away. Rule Five selection and former Rays farm hand Joey Rickard saw many sliders tonight and only offered at an elevated one that he was too long to and swung over top of the pitch.
All in all, it was a step in a more positive direction for Archer tonight. The changeup was as good as it has ever been for him and his willingness to use it to righties gives him a third pitch at a different eye level that he is throwing with the same velocity as his slider. The struggles this year have mainly come from the fact that most of his pitches have been up and there has not been too much of a velocity difference between the slider and the heater. Archer needed good news tonight and he got it against a very tough lineup that crushed him the last time he saw them by giving them a new look. Hopefully that look buys him some more time to recover his slider and fully restore his fastball command.