The Tampa Bay Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now, winning 21 of their last 24 games. On June 29, the ballclub’s record was an unimpressive 42 – 39, good enough for fourth place in the tough AL East, six games back from the division leading Red Sox. Now, though, the Rays find themselves in second place, just a half-game back, and tied with Baltimore for the Wild Card.
One of the name’s making the rounds over the past month or so is Chris Archer, who has gone 5 – 0 with a miniscule 0.73 ERA since the calendar flipped to July.
Prior to the year, I ranked Archer as the 56th best prospect in the game (and second among Rays prospects), writing at that time: “Archer’s always posted above-average K-rates – he’s averaged exactly one punch out per inning in his career – but that comes with the all-too-often caveat of poor control. In 719.2 career innings, he’s walked 405 hitters (5.1 BB/9). And his most recent stint in Triple-A was only moderately better (4.36 BB/9).”
I continued, “It’s exceptionally likely that Tampa finally relents and pushes Archer into a bullpen role where he has the potential be very dominant.”
And through 10 starts in Triple-A this season, it was much the same for the 6-foot-3 right-hander: 9.36 K/9, 4.14 BB/9, and a 4.18 Skill Independent ERA. He was essentially the same pitcher as he’s always been. Now, though, Archer ranks ninth in ERA (2.39) among big league pitchers with 60+ innings.
The problem, of course, is that his success with Tampa Bay isn’t going to last – at least not to this degree.
While Archer’s main issue, his control/command, has drastically improved (3.33 BB/9), he’s also been incredibly lucky thus far too. His batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, is .216, the lowest among all pitchers with 60+ innings. His strand rate, 81.2%, is the 14th highest. His HR/FB rate, 7.0%, is among the lowest among pitchers with a groundball rate of at least 45% as well.
And just taking it one step further, the difference between Archer’s SIERA (4.46) and ERA is 2.07, the third highest mark in baseball.
Chris Archer has been impressive this year, but his current success isn’t sustainable though. If his control/command is, in fact, an improved skill he’s very likely to achieve his high ceiling – eventually.
Photo of Chris Archer Courtesy of Adam Hunger/Reuters via The Boston Globe