by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Chris Archer’s first four starts of 2018 have clearly been disappointing, considering his 7.84 ERA over 20.1 IP. We all know that he isn’t this bad, but how much of an improvement can we expect? Is he going to be able to turn it around and be a productive option moving forward, or should fantasy owners take what they can get and move on?
These are the numbers that jump out at you and seem to indicate poor luck:
- Strand Rate – 55.9%
- BABIP – .379
Archer has been hit relatively hard (24.2% line drive rate, 38.7% Hard%), and that obviously is going to be a concern. When you are getting hit this hard, can we really call it poor luck or is it simply poor skill? That’s an interesting question…
He’s seemingly reduced to throwing three pitches, though you can argue that it’s really only two:
- Fourseam Fastball – 45.68%
- Slider – 47.91%
- Changeup – 6.41%
That’s similar to the usage from the prior few years, so it’s not a big surprise, though his velocity has been down. Last season he averaged 95.74 mph on his fastball, and this year he’s currently sitting at 94.76. It’s early in the season and the weather has been bad, but is that enough of an excuse (especially when he pitches in a dome and in his last start, which came at home, he averaged 94.52 mph)?
Opponents are hitting .419 with a .742 SLG against his fourseam fastball, so the concern has to be considered real.
Archer saw his groundball rate fall last season (42.0%), and it has continued to fall early on in ’18 (40.3%). You can argue that he should improve upon a 1.74 HR/9, but he had marks of 1.34 and 1.21 the previous two seasons so it’s hard to argue that it won’t be an issue.
This may be the biggest concern, as he has a 3.92 BB/9 thus far (compared to a 2.96 career mark). While he is getting swings and misses (14.2% SwStr%), he hasn’t been getting opponents to chase outside the strike zone (28.5% O-Swing%). It’s something that we’re going to have to watch closely, because given the other numbers if he can’t rediscover his control the results are going to continue to be disastrous.
We don’t want to write Archer off, because there is still ample potential for success and the sample size is small. The key things to watch are going to be:
- His velocity
- His control
If he doesn’t improve those two things he isn’t going to be able to improve dramatically. As it is the continued risk of home runs are going to limit his potential appeal, so while we’d love to declare him a can’t miss buy low candidate we simply aren’t there. There are too many questions, and while we’d stay patient if we owned him we wouldn’t go out of our way to target him either.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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