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The Pittsburgh Pirates are finally seeing the Chris Archer they thought they were getting

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What does a strong finish mean for Archer in 2019 and beyond?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates starter Chris Archer had it all going last night in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Last night, Pittsburgh Pirates Chris Archer looked every bit of the front-line starting pitcher the club imagined they would be getting after paying a hefty price to finally land him.

Over the course of 91 pitches, Archer:

  • Only threw when behind in the count a total of 16 times
  • Mixed his pitches very well, both in terms of usage and location:
  • Threw 16 changeups, tied for the most he’s thrown since coming over to the Pittsburgh Pirates. These included quite a few same-side changeups. Despite the change serving as one of his most hittable pitches in his career to date, Cubs hitters could only muster an 84.6 mph average exit velo against it.
  • Attacked with his secondary pitches when in two-strike counts. Archer threw 29 pitches in these counts. Of those, only four four-seam fastballs were thrown.

Yes, it was quite a start for Archer, who continued his dominant September. Bill Brink of the Post Gazette had great quotes from Archer during post-game, including this tidbit:

“Cervy and I had some talks and I watched what he was doing with other guys and how infrequently they shook,” Archer said. “I said you know what, I’m going to go with this, because whatever I was doing in August wasn’t working. So I changed it up completely that night against the Braves (Sept. 1, one run and two hits in six innings, also when Archer began pitching solely from the stretch) and here we are.”

Over the course of these now 30 innings in September, Archer has clearly started to develop a trust level not just with Francisco Cervelli, but with how his arsenal — now fully realized — can play off of each other. I wrote on BD previously on Archer’s renewed two-seamer reliance since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. In that piece I opined that the jury was still out on whether or not the pitch could be an effective one for the right-hander.

Then, I had mentioned that Archer was a tad predictable, following up a two-seamer with a slider at a very consistent rate. Last night, he paired it with his changeup and curveball more often, such as the FT-CH combo that took Javier Baez from a 1-1 count to a strikeout in two pitches.

Repeatedly, I was struck with the thought that Archer has righted himself in September in many ways. The confidence in his pitches is there. The execution is present. The reliance on his catcher is now re-emphasized.

30 innings of quality pitching — even taking into account his 4 ER performance against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 14th — will not necessarily ease those Pittsburgh Pirates fans concerned about how much the club gave away for him. But those innings will certainly go a long way towards getting those same fans excited for what 2019 and beyond might have in store for the club’s starting rotation.