With a stellar 2.65/1.08 ERA/WHIP and a .198 BAA over his 74.2 big-league innings this season, you’d think that Chris Archer has more than done enough to show the Tampa Bay Rays that he should stick around.
Well … not so fast. As it turns out, numbers alone won’t be the only factor in the team’s decision as to who the odd man out in the rotation will be when both Alex Cobb and Matt Moore are ready to rejoin the team, something that could happen as soon as next week, according to MLB.com’s Sam Strong.
Standing in Archer’s way of a stretch run with the Rays is Roberto Hernandez, who you might not think have a whole lot of business even being in this discussion considering his 4.75/1.30 ERA/WHIP on the season, not to mention his latest outing, a 4.2-inning, eight-hit disappointment in which he gave up three runs.
The again, this was the same pitcher who, only one turn earlier, delivered a nine-inning complete-game gem, allowing just two runs on five hits and a walk, while striking out six …
So, maybe it’s not as simple as it looks.
Still, there’s no disputing what Archer has done here. For five straight starts in July in which he allowed a measly three earned runs in 37 innings of work (including two complete game shutouts … one of them being a two-hitter), the righty wasn’t only arguably the Rays’ best pitcher during that span — he was one of MLB‘s best, period.
Has he been a little lucky because his mediocre peripherals (6.15 K/9, 3.38 BB/9)? Well, the 81.4 percent strand rate and .219 BABIP he’s enjoyed this season gives a look as to why he’s well outperforming his 4.22 FIP; however, he’s also been effective at generating ground balls (1.31 GB/FB) and has limited his line drives to an excellent 16.7 percent.
In short, there’s plenty that Archer is doing to help his standing with the baseball gods as well.
Going against him, however, may be the fact that the Rays will simply be willing to let Hernandez go for nothing, which is effectively what they’ll do if they decide that Archer has won the battle. On the other hand, youngster is nearing the ceiling of his innings pitched in one year thus far, and there could be possible concerns that a new career-high being established could lead to the 24-year old hitting a wall down the stretch.
At this point, though, those factors so seem to be a little shallow, no?
The Rays need to put the best pitcher out on the mound whenever possible in the AL East race, and until he shows otherwise — Archer has been the better option.