It’s hard to draw any conclusions from one start. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from one start.
But one start is all we have to go on from Chris Archer so far with the Pirates. I’m not really concerned with the outcome on the stat line from that start. What I’m more focused on is his approach in that start, and what that might tell us to watch going forward.
In the past, the Pirates had their pitchers throwing a lot of fastballs, usually more than 60%, in what has become an out-dated approach. Joe Musgrove came over from the Astros throwing about 50% fastballs, and throwing his off-speed pitches much more often. Soon, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and Nick Kingham adopted the same approach in the rotation, while Edgar Santana really benefited from the approach in the bullpen.
Archer didn’t need this adjustment. He was already throwing his slider over 40% of the time this year, using the pitch the second most of any starter who throws a slider. If you were concerned that the Pirates would change this and reduce the slider usage, then you haven’t been paying attention to their recent trends.
Sure enough, Archer came out throwing his slider 43.2% of the time in his Pirates debut. There’s a good reason he throws that pitch so often. It has a career OPS against of .570, with his .707 line this year being higher. It also has a career 18.8% whiff rate, with his 20% rate this year being better.
The interesting thing is that Archer was throwing his sinker about half the time when he was throwing a fastball. This year he has only thrown a fastball about 46% of the time, and in most starts it was the four seam fastball that he threw. He went 51.6% fastball usage — which isn’t a season high, but is up there with his higher totals — and used the sinker 25.3% of the time.
That’s actually a trend from the last few starts, even before the Pirates added him. He threw a sinker on rare occasion earlier in the year, but threw the pitch 13.9% of the time in his start on July 22nd, barely threw it in his following start, and then threw it a season-high amount in his Pirates debut.
I don’t know if that was just based on the lineup, or if it will be a new trend for him going forward. His four-seam fastball hasn’t been effective this year, with a .925 OPS and just a 6.3% whiff rate. The sinker hasn’t been better, with a 1.267 OPS in just 44 pitches, and a 6% whiff rate. However, in his career, the sinker has been the better fastball.
You might be thinking that this is typical — a guy comes to the Pirates and they have him throwing his sinker. I don’t think this is really of the Pirates’ doing though.
I know in the minors, they don’t make any adjustments with a guy for about three months after they acquire him, giving time to evaluate his game. There’s a bit more urgency in the majors, but they still give some time to evaluate. J.A. Happ, for example, got one start in 2015 before they started working on a few things with him. But they’re still not making rapid changes. The way it’s been described to me in the past, the team liked a guy enough to trade for him, so they’re not going to bring him in and immediately change him.
The fact that Archer pitched mostly like he had all season with the Rays in terms of the slider, and like he did the last few starts in terms of the fastball, tells me that this approach was more on Archer than something coming from the team. I’m sure that the team input will start to show up more often going forward.
That said, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for Archer to go with his sinker. I’ve been saying all year that pitchers should take the simplified process of throwing their best pitches more often. Archer already does this with his slider. He also throws his changeup a good amount, and that pitch gets good results with a .515 OPS and a 19.1% whiff rate this year.
Both of his fastballs have struggled this year, but his sinker has been his best fastball in his career, and is typically a pitch that plays well when paired with a slider. He stopped throwing the pitch after 2014 (a year where that was his primary fastball), and just reintroduced it this year. I don’t want to say that was the cause of his struggles the previous two seasons, but if you look at his pitches in those years, the fastball was getting hit around at close to a .900 OPS, while the slider was good, and the changeup also played (though it had a .782 OPS in 2017, which is a year where he saw more hard contact than any other year).
This year he’s throwing the sinker again, and has thrown a curveball 11 times, which is a pitch he hasn’t thrown since 2013, when he threw it one time in the majors. And now it looks like he might be transitioning to the sinker more often.
At the very least, having more pitches should help Archer. Hitters know he will be throwing the slider around 40-45% of the time, and there’s not much they can do with the pitch, even with that knowledge. Adding a few more options beyond the slider should help. And moving to his best fastball in his career should definitely help, especially when you consider that the four-seam fastball has been his worst pitch the last few years.
We’ll see how this plays out in his future starts, and whether he continues throwing the sinker more often. I feel that pitchers should throw their best pitches more often, and when it comes to the historical numbers on his fastball, it would make sense for Archer to be throwing the sinker more often than his four-seamer.
The Pirates are in third place in their division, trailing by 7.5 games with 51 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by four games.
Indianapolis is in first place and they lead by 4.5 games with 28 games left in their schedule.
Altoona is in second place and trails by six games with 30 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by 2.5 games.
Bradenton is in fifth place and trails by 9.5 games with 28 games left in their schedule.
West Virginia is in sixth place and trail by nine games with 28 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by five games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.
Morgantown is in sixth place and trail by 13 games with 28 games left in their schedule.
Bristol is in fourth place and trails by eight games with 26 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by five games.
The GCL Pirates are in fourth place and trail by eight games with 17 games left in their schedule.
The DSL Pirates1 are in sixth place and trail by ten games with 19 games left in their schedule.
The DSL Pirates2 are in fifth place and trail by 16.5 games with 18 games left in their schedule.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-4 to the St Louis Cardinals on Saturday night. Trevor Williams will get the start today, coming off of his last outing on July 28th when he threw six shutout innings against the New York Mets. He also threw shutout ball in each of his previous two starts. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Jack Flaherty, who has a 3.49 ERA in 90.1 innings, with 111 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. In his last start, he gave up four runs over 5.1 innings against the Colorado Rockies.
The minor league schedule includes Clay Holmes, who has allowed two runs over his last 12 innings. He threw five shutout innings last time he faced today’s opponent (Toledo). Altoona’s Cam Vieaux has allowed 21 runs over his last 27.1 innings. That was after posting a 1.41 ERA in his first five starts for the Curve. Bradenton’s James Marvel leads the Florida State League in innings pitched. West Virginia’s Hunter Stratton has allowed a total of four earned runs over his last three starts combined. Morgantown’s Zach Spears went five innings for the first time in his last start. The GCL Pirates and the DSL Pirates1/2 all have off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (57-54) vs Cardinals (57-54) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (3.89 ERA, 77:40 SO/BB, 111.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (62-50) @ Toledo (57-54) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (3.38 ERA, 91:36 SO/BB, 85.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (58-50) vs Akron (66-46) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (3.94 ERA, 45:13 SO/BB, 59.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (49-55) vs Clearwater (57-51) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.85 ERA, 96:29 SO/BB, 126.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (56-51) vs Augusta (53-56) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Hunter Stratton (4.83 ERA, 65:38 SO/BB, 72.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (17-31) vs Batavia (21-26) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zach Spears (6.75 ERA, 11:8 SO/BB, 21.1 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (18-24) @ Kingsport (23-19) 4:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
GCL: Pirates (18-19) vs Blue Jays 12:00 PM 8/6 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (25-29) vs Dodgers Guerrero 10:30 AM 8/6 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (21-33) vs Mariners 10:30 AM 8/6 (season preview)
From Friday night, two home runs. First is Pablo Reyes for Indy, hitting a bomb to straight away center field
Second is Bligh Madris hitting a grand slam
8/4: Pirates released Yair Babilonia and Garrett Brown.
8/4: Corey Dickerson activated from disabled list. Christopher Bostick optioned to Indianapolis.
8/4: Ben Bengtson and Deon Stafford activated from West Virginia disabled list. Raul Siri promoted to Bradenton. Jhoan Herrera assigned to Morgantown.
8/4: Austin Coley placed on disabled list.
8/3: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
8/3: Pirates option Steven Brault to Indianapolis. Recall Dovydas Neverauskas
8/2: Alfredo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Pedro Vasquez activated from Altoona disabled list.
8/2: Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.
8/2: Leandro Pina placed on 60-day minor league DL.
8/1: Eric Wood activated from Indianapolis disabled list.
8/1: Bralin Jackson activated from the disabled list.
8/1: Pirates sign Mason Fishback. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
8/1: Pirates sign Carlos Jimenez, Andy Maldonado and Franrielis Mercedes.
7/31: Pirates trade Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a PTBNL to Rays for Chris Archer.
7/31: Pirates trade Taylor Hearn and a PTBNL to Rangers for Keone Kela.
7/29: Ben Bengtson and Rodolfo Castro placed on disabled list. Raul Siri and Jhoan Herrera added to West Virginia roster.
7/29: Erich Weiss activated from Indianapolis disabled list.
7/28: Pirates sign Justin Morris. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/28: Josh Smoker claimed off waivers by Detroit Tigers
7/28: Josh Bell placed on disabled list. Jose Osuna recalled from Indianapolis.
7/28: Corey Dickerson placed on disabled list. Austin Meadows recalled from Indianapolis.
7/27: Pirates option Michael Feliz to Indianapolis. Recall Alex McRae
7/27: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Morgantown on rehab.
7/26: Deon Stafford placed on disabled list. Rafelin Lorenzo activated from West Virginia DL.
7/26: Francisco Cervelli activated from DL. Jacob Stalling optioned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note and a first in baseball history that involved the Pirates. First the trade and on this date in 1980, the Pirates sent two minor leaguers to the San Diego Padres for infielder Kurt Bevacqua and pitcher Mark Lee. The Pirates got 25.1 innings out of Lee and 51 games from Bevacqua, but they gave up Luis Salazar, who ended up spending 13 years and 1,302 games in the majors.
The players born on this date include 2009 outfielder Eric Hinske, 2007 pitcher John Wasdin, 1980 pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo and 1971-73 pitcher Nelson Briles, who threw a complete game shutout over the Orioles in game five of the 1971 World Series. He won 36 games in his three years with the Pirates and had a 2.98 ERA. After the 1973 season, Briles was traded to the Royals in a deal that included Kurt Bevacqua making his first trip to Pittsburgh.
On this date in 1921, Harold Arlin announced the first radio broadcast of a baseball game over the radio. On KDKA, he called the 8-5 win by the Pirates over the Phillies at Forbes Field. The game lasted 1:57 and the Pirates went down 4-2 early, before reliever Jimmy Zinn came in and allowed one unearned run over six innings for the win. Philadelphia’s Cy Williams hit the only home run that day and Pirates’ right fielder Possum Whitted scored three runs. You can view the boxscore here.