Collette Calls: Breaking Down Chris Archer

Collette Calls: Breaking Down Chris Archer

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

How's your first week of fantasy baseball going? Let's say you put together the following staff in a 12-team mixed league last weekend:

SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Corey Kluber
SP - Carlos Carrasco
SP - Marcus Stroman
SP - Jose Fernandez
SP - Adam Wainwright
CL - Francisco Rodriguez
CL - Shawn Tolleson
CL - Glen Perkins

That staff is light on closers, but what a starting rotation! Well, if that was your team, you went 1-6 this week with three saves, three blown saves, an 8.08 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP. The only pitcher to get a win from that staff was Stroman thanks to his brilliant Opening Day start. Otherwise, your staff was obliterated.

Since misery loves company, let's add one more name to the mix -- Chris Archer. Archer had two starts and lost both with a 7.20 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP. He did strike out 17 batters in 10 innings, but five walks and four homers (all in one game) ultimately did him in. The issue with Archer actually goes back to 2015, as the talented right-hander hasn't won a game since Aug. 31 and is now 0-5 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP over his last eight starts.

Let's look at what's gone on with Archer over those last eight starts against the backdrop of the first five months of 2015:

SPLITTBFIPERAWHIPAVGBABIPK%BB%HR/9
Last 8144416.151.78.287.351
How's your first week of fantasy baseball going? Let's say you put together the following staff in a 12-team mixed league last weekend:

SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Corey Kluber
SP - Carlos Carrasco
SP - Marcus Stroman
SP - Jose Fernandez
SP - Adam Wainwright
CL - Francisco Rodriguez
CL - Shawn Tolleson
CL - Glen Perkins

That staff is light on closers, but what a starting rotation! Well, if that was your team, you went 1-6 this week with three saves, three blown saves, an 8.08 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP. The only pitcher to get a win from that staff was Stroman thanks to his brilliant Opening Day start. Otherwise, your staff was obliterated.

Since misery loves company, let's add one more name to the mix -- Chris Archer. Archer had two starts and lost both with a 7.20 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP. He did strike out 17 batters in 10 innings, but five walks and four homers (all in one game) ultimately did him in. The issue with Archer actually goes back to 2015, as the talented right-hander hasn't won a game since Aug. 31 and is now 0-5 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP over his last eight starts.

Let's look at what's gone on with Archer over those last eight starts against the backdrop of the first five months of 2015:

SPLITTBFIPERAWHIPAVGBABIPK%BB%HR/9
Last 8144416.151.78.287.35124131.8
4/15-8/157241812.781.04.211.2923160.8

Over those last eight starts, Archer has become mostly a "five-and-dive pitcher" that's still striking out batters at a very strong rate for a starting pitcher. This was on full display on Opening Day when he struck out 12 Toronto batters in five innings. When he isn't fanning hitters, though, Archer's been rather hittable to the tune of a .351 BABIP -- which equates to more loud contact than it does bleeders and bloops. Archer's walk and home-run rates have both more than doubled during this dry spell, as well, and that's a deadly cocktail for any pitcher's ratios.

On a pitch-rate level, things don't look much better:

SPLITTBFSWING%CONTACT%CHASE%SwStr%
Last 814444762711
4/15-8/1572448693215

Batters are swinging less frequently at Archer's offerings, but when they do, they're making more contact. Additionally, they're not chasing his stuff out of the zone as often as they were when he was in strong contention for the American League Cy Young Award last season.

Archer has primarily been a fastball/slider pitcher with a show-me circle change, but the slider is his moneymaker. Despite the live fastball, his slider is the pitch that batters typically fear. Some have even called it one of the best pitches in the game. Of late, the slider has been anything but that for Archer:

SPLITPITCHESAVGBABIPSWING%CONTACT%CHASE%SwStr%
Last 8296.284.43155684018
4/15-8/151,133.175.30354604322

His slider has been MUCH more hittable during this slump as batters are making both more contact and quality contact against it. The velocity on his slider is down from where it was at its peak in 2015, but in line with his 2014 velocity. However, the location of the slider hasn't been consistent:

LAST 8 STARTSFIRST 5 MONTHS 2015

Archer has elevated the slider more recently than he did most of last season and, thus far, is not using it as much on the left side of the plate as he did last year. In watching his efforts in 2016, the command of the slider has been lacking and in the cold Baltimore weather Friday night, it also lacked its usual bite.

The troubles with the slider have been noticeable when watching Archer on the mound because he doesn't have command of the pitch on a consistent basis. That said, he's still had better control of it than his fastball recently. One of the knocks on Archer as he came up through the minors was whether he would be a No. 2 starter or just a high-leverage reliever. Velocity has never been an issue for Archer, but the lack of a consistent third pitch and wavering command in the minors plagued him first in the Indians and Cubs organizations, before continuing in his days in Tampa Bay's farm system. Recently, it appears that Archer is reverting back to those issues, especially given the poor command of his fastball. Hank Conger, who has caught both of his starts this season, has had to move his glove around quite a bit after setting up.

If we take the same metrics from the slider outcomes above and apply it to Archer's fastball, the differences are rather stark:

SPLITPITCHESAVGBABIPSWING%CONTACT%CHASE%SwStr%
Last 8429.299.2943586175
4/15-8/151,551.254.30343782210

Batters aren't swinging at as many fastballs in this dry stretch for Archer because he's had trouble throwing it for strikes. In comparison, Archer was getting strikes with 62 percent of his fastballs for most of 2015, but has done so just 56 percent of the time over his last eight outings.

We also need to look at velocity, since Archer's is lower than it was in 2014 and 2015:

Archer's fastball averaged 95.3 mph in April 2014 and 96.1 in April 2015, but this year it is 94.5 (which is even lower than the 94.9 at which he ended 2015). His fastball velocity declined as the 2015 season went on, but it's slightly alarming that his early 2016 velocity is lower than in recent years.

If Archer had been masterful in Tropicana Field in his first start (the 12 K's were nice, but he also gave up five hits and three walks over five innings), we could chalk up the issues in Baltimore on Friday night to not having a good feel for the baseball in less than ideal weather. While that may be part of the story, the fact remains that over his last eight starts, Chris Archer has been a rather terrible one-category pitcher. He has been piling up strikeouts but doing so without wins and slaying the ratios of many fantasy owners.

On the bright side, this could very well just be a bad stretch of baseball that he rebounds from as he rediscovers the command that made him one of the best pitchers in baseball for most of last season. In the meantime, keep an eye on Archer's velocity and when you watch him on the mound, pay attention to how much the catcher's glove moves around to see if the 27-year-old's command improves.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls, as esd the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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