Don’t Worry About Chris Archer, At Least Not Yet

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

While his Pirate career may be off to a slow start, fans do not need to worry about Chris Archer…at least not yet.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays on August 31st they were the talk of the baseball world. After years of playing bridesmaid in trade talks, Neal Huntington and the Bucs came through and landed the big fish. Immediately, high expectations were set for Archer.

The high expectations for Archer were well deserved. Not only did the Pirates give up a hefty price in Austin Meadows, Shane Baz, and Tyler Glasnow to acquire Archer, he has also been on of the best starting pitchers in baseball in recent years. The past four seasons Archer ranks in the top-10 in MLB in both fWAR and strikeouts among starting pitchers.

Thus far as a Pirate Archer has struggled, however, fans do not need to worry about Archer. At least not yet.

After allowing six runs on seven hits, two walks, and two home runs in just 4 innings pitched on Sunday afternoon, Archer has allowed 16 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings pitched for the Pirates. That comes out to an ugly 6.45 ERA in his five Bucco starts.

First off, the great stuff is still there for Archer. Despite his struggles, he has struck out 24 batters in his 22 1/3 innings of work. Archer would not own a healthy 22.4% strikeout rate as a Pirate without plus stuff.

Second, Archer is also getting BAbip’d to death. When a pitcher has a batting average on balls in play substantially higher or lower than .300 it is a sign of them being victimized by, or benefitting from, some luck and/or their defense.

Entering his start on Sunday, Archer’s BAbip was .368. In Sunday’s start, it was .417. This is unsustainably high. At some point, Archer’s BAbip will revert to the norm, his career BAbip is .301, which will lead to improved results on the mound.

While BAbip has played a large role in Archer’s schedules, that is not his only problem. His 39% hard contact rate is entirely too high. Hence, the not yet at least part when saying people should not be worried about Archer.

If Archer continues to allow this much hard contact, then he will continue to allow too many hits and his home run rate of 1+ per nine innings pitched is not going to come down. Allowing hard contact can lead to a pitcher suffering from a high BAbip for an extended period of time, similar to how a hitter that routinely makes hard contact can sustain a high BAbip longer, making Archer limiting hard contact vital.

Control has also been an issue for Archer. As a Pirate he owns an 8.4% walk rate. While this is higher than his 7.5% lifetime walk rate, it is not overly high. The biggest problem stemming from his control issues is that it is costing him innings.

Archer has only pitched into the 6th inning in one of his five starts, and in that start he failed to record an out in the 6th inning. Thanks in large part to getting into too many three-ball counts, Archer is averaging 19.3 pitches per inning as a Pirate. This number is entirely too high and has led to him averaging just 4.5 innings per start.

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Chris Archer has suffered from some bad luck as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, he is also allowing too much hard contact and is getting into too many three ball counts. While fans should not be worried yet, the ball is now in Archer’s court to limit hard contact and throw more strikes to turn back into the pitcher he always was before coming to Pittsburgh.