Chris Archer has struggled in 2019, but ditching a pitch could be the first step toward getting his season back on track
The 2019 season has not been kind to Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chris Archer. In 13 starts, Archer owns a 5.56 ERA and a 6.01 FIP. Both of these are career worsts for the former All-Star. He has also allowed a National League worst 18 home runs.
A factor in the struggles of Archer has been a two-seamed fastball that has been getting crushed. This is a pitch that the Pirates have seemingly forced on Archer since his arrival last July. By ditching this pitch, Archer could take a step toward turning his 2019 season around.
In his last start he did not throw a single two-seamed fastball against the San Diego Padres. Archer allowed just two hits, he walked three and struck out five in 5 innings of work against San Diego. The lone run he allowed came on a solo home run by Manny Machado.
The fact Archer turned in a successful start by not using his two-seamer is no surprise. This season, opposing batters are hitting .400 with an .867 slugging percentage off of his two-seamer. 7 of the 18 home runs he has allowed have come off of his two-seamer, and the pitch has generated just a 9.4% whiff rate.
When comparing it to his other pitches, it truly puts into perspective how bad of a pitch his two-seamer has been. Opposing batters hit just .212 with a .286 wOBA off of his slider, .216 with a .313 wOBA off of his changeup, and .234 with a .358 wOBA off of his four-seamed fastball. His slider whiff rate is 42.5%, changeup is 27.8%, and for his four-seamer it is 16.1%.
17.7% of the pitches that Archer has thrown this season has been a two-seamed fastball. While this is only his third most used pitch, it is still more often than he has thrown an effective changeup. This number also saw a decline after Archer ditched the pitch in his start this past Saturday.
Moving forward, Archer should lean more on his slider. Archer’s slider has always been his best pitch, and in 2019 it has been far and away his best option. He already throws it more than any other pitch, however, it would benefit him to replace the two-seamers he has been throwing with more sliders in each start.
While Archer has struggled thus far in 2019, he has the stuff to get things turned around. A first step toward doing so would be to ditch his two-seamed fastball moving forward. After not throwing any in his last start, hopefully, this will become a permanent change for the veteran righty.