The Pirates decided last July to trade two of their prized young players, outfielder Austin Meadows and right-hander Tyler Glasnow, to the Rays for veteran righty Chris Archer. The Bucs took the gamble because they thought they were acquiring a top-of-the-rotation arm in Archer. That isn’t what they’ve gotten, though, and the deal now looks like one of the most lopsided swaps in recent memory. Not only have Meadows and Glasnow broken out in Tampa Bay, but Archer has taken enormous steps backward in his new home.
On Tuesday, in his 21st start as a Pirate, Archer yielded seven earned runs on eight hits – including five home runs – in six innings against the Braves. The Pirates lost the game, unsurprisingly, and continue to look as if they’ll miss the playoffs for the second straight year with Archer on their roster. With a 5.06 ERA/5.14 FIP in 112 innings in Pittsburgh, the 30-year-old Archer has been detrimental to the team’s cause.
At least this season, Archer hasn’t come close to resembling the pitcher who posted a 3.69 ERA/3.48 FIP in 1,063 frames as a Ray. Among 118 starters who have thrown 50-plus innings in 2019, Archer ranks last in home run-to-fly ball rate (24.6 percent), fourth worst in FIP (6.15) and walks per nine (4.53), and 11th from the bottom in ERA (5.73). While Archer has fanned 9.2 batters per nine, even that’s below his 2015-18 output.
Looking beyond Archer’s basic production, alarming signs abound. His groundball rate, which has sat in the mid-40s for most of his career, is down to 38.6 percent. In turn, Archer’s fly ball rate has climbed to a career-worst 39.2 percent. That partially explains why he’s running an HR-to-FB rate nearly twice his lifetime figure.