Pittsburgh Pirates: Looking at Chris Archer

(Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images)
(Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Chris Archer yesterday at the trade deadline, marking the first time the Pirates brought in the big time player.  Here’s what he’s done in his career and what to expect moving forward.

As shocking as it was the club won 11 straight games, the Pirates acquiring right-handed pitcher Chris Archer is more so.  The club traded away Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows – two players with more hope than actual production for various different reasons whether on field or injury – and a player to be named later.

Archer, a two-time all-star, is having a down season so far compared to the standards he has set for himself; a 4.31 ERA and 24.7 percent strikeout rate aren’t up to his standards, and the package sent by the Pirates certainly represent that.  Overall this is what he has done in his career:


WARP, or wins above replacement player, is Baseball Prospectus’ value metric, and for pitchers it’s based off of deserved run average (DRA), a run estimator for RA9.  Archer for the past four seasons has been a three win pitcher, the last three being worth at least four wins, represents want Archer brings to the table; a top of the rotation arm that can match up with any team.

This year, though, Archer has struggled pitching to a 4.31 ERA.  Part of the problem is his strikeout rate is down to 24.7 percent, his worst number since 2014 when he struck out 21.1 percent.  But the good news is that Archer is still missing bats, and he’s at a career best 13.6 percent swinging strikeout rate, similar to that of Justin Verlander and his former teammate Blake Snell.

The strikeouts should come back, as Archer is continuing to miss bats the strikeouts should follow.  The other big key is his fastball velocity remains firm.  The fastball is still at 95.3 miles per hour and slider at 88.6 miles per hour.  Bringing in a veteran with an athletic body and delivery along with velocity that remains firm.

The one problem with his pitch selection is that he is a two pitch pitcher, focusing on the fourseam (44.4 percent usage) and the slider (42.8 percent usage).  He also possesses a changeup, 11.0 percent, but most of that comes against left-handed bats (1.12 percent against right-handed pitchers and 23.5 percent against left-handers).

Because of the swinging strike rate and velocity, the strikeouts should come back, and with that a lower ERA.  But the other area where the ERA comes into play and should get lower is Archer’s .343 BAbip, indicating some poor defense behind him.  That should come back down to the .300 level and Archer should see improvement in his numbers.

However, as Neal Huntington always says, you don’t pay for the numbers on the back of the baseball card.  Looking ahead, this what PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, has Archer pegged for, along with contract information from Baseball-Reference:

20182950.33.201.0 $2,138,889.00
2019301993.344.3 $7,666,667.00
2020*311883.424.0 $9,000,000.00
2021*321843.453.8 $11,000,000.00
2020 and 2021 Team Options. $1,750,000 and $250,000 buyouts $29,805,556.00

Certainly, the projections favor Archer and have him as a solid number two starter in the game, one who can lead a pitching staff, and will have Jameson Taillon behind him and Ivan Nova, another veteran presence, in the backend of the rotation.

Having a pitcher with club control for the next three years and two months who projects not only as a sub 3.50 ERA pitcher, but as a pitcher who is a four win player and perfectly fits both roster and budget constraints.

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Neal Huntington swung for the fences and traded for a pitcher with success in the past, some good indicators going forward, and good projections for the rest of his contract.  Given the dollars owed, and that’s without discounting the future dollars, the Pirates were able to get a potential top flight arm to help not only for the 2018 playoff push, but for the following three pushes.  It makes sense why Neal Huntington has wanted him since he first got the gig in Pittsburgh.  Now that Archer is a Pittsburgh Pirates, it will be intriguing to watch the roster construction in the upcoming years, with a strong bullpen and better looking rotation in place.

*Numbers from Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Brooks Baseball