Last season, Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer posted a 3.23 ERA over 212 innings, ranked second in the American League in strikeouts, went to the All-Star Game, finished fifth in A.L. Cy Young voting and accounted for 5.2 wins above replacement. At 26 years old, this was clearly the breakout season Tampa knew was coming.
That's why 2016 has been so frustrating and perplexing for Archer and the Rays.
His ERA has shot up to 4.11 and he's one game away from making a terrible bit of history — tying the franchise record for losses in a season at 18.
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Archer's record currently sits at 7-17 after taking a loss against the Red Sox on Tuesday, which tells you this season hasn't been perfect if not much else.
In reality, Archer has been quite a bit better than that and doesn't at all deserve to be in reach of tying a record for most losses, considering he ranks 74th in run support per nine innings.
So far this year, Archer has accounted for 2.7 WAR, and he should be somewhere above 3.0 by the end of the regular season. He ranks 10th in all of baseball with a 3.37 xFIP (a metric that accounts for only what a pitcher can control), seventh in strikeout percentage and 11th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“I think he simplified some things and realized ultimately he had to do a better job of throwing more strikes,” Rays manage Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times regarding recent improvement from Archer. “Whether it's fastball, slider or changeup, it's getting it over the plate. A lot of that, once you show a lineup or the first couple hitters that you're willing to throw strikes, you open up a lot of avenues to get them out.''
Fortunately for the Rays, most teams are smart enough to still see the upside in Archer's performance and value, even if 2016 has not gone as well as anyone hoped, and will be lining up with offers should they take Archer to the trade market this winter.