Inconsistency may be the most difficult trend for young pitchers to shake upon their arrivals to the bigs, and that’s something that Chris Archer knows well.
64, 49, 70, 47, 29, 69, 49, 40. No, those aren’t the numbers from a sequel to Lost, but rather an illustration of the Tampa Bay Rays righty’s up-and-down career thus far. They’re the game scores of his first eight starts in the majors, dating back to his debut on June 20 last season.
Capable of putting together a seven-inning, two hit gem against the hard-hitting Baltimore Orioles in one start (June 7) and lasting only four innings against the Boston Red Sox the next, the Rays just aren’t sure which version of Chris Archer that they’d get from outing to outing.
Would it be the guy with the explosive fastball who looks like he can throw complete games? Or would it be the one who let his missing control get the best of his stuff?
Lately though, it seems as though the right-hander is swinging the pendulum towards the former.
Including his latest outing on Independence Day against the lowly Houston Astros — a fine six-inning, two-run, two hit display with three walks and five strikeouts — Archer has jumped a major hurdle in the 2013 season — go three games in a row while pitching at least five complete innings and actually qualifying for a decision.
Sure, he’s only recorded one win in that three-start span, but considering that he’s allowed just six runs in those 17 innings, you could probably say that he’s been the victim of a lack of support. More important than his 3.18/1.18 ERA/WHIP over the stretch, though, is that the latter number is the results of the biggest improvement he needed to make — walks.
With seven walks in those three starts, Archer has brought his walk rate to an acceptable 3.70 BB/9 in the last 14 days to complement his already excellent .225 BAA on the season. That’s a far cry from the poor 5.15 rate he has overall in 2013 which reflected his struggles, and it’s the number he’ll have to keep bringing down to have any kind of chance at sustaining the success he’s enjoying now.
There’s little doubt that the 24-year old has the stuff to be great. He just … well, actually, there’s also probably a pun about how Archer needs to take aim that could be used to close things out here — but I just can’t do it.
In short, this looks like a young pitcher who is starting to get comfortable with attacking hitters on the mound. And if he can keep his generosity in check, it won’t be long until the rest of the AL notices.