Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That cliché is about the only thing that Pirates pitcher, Chris Archer has going for him right now.
Just over a month ago, the Pirates “went all in” and made the blockbuster move their fans have been begging them to do for years. It didn’t seem to matter what they gave up or where they were in the overall standings, the fact that Archer was coming into town was enough to give Bucco Nation some much needed optimism about the future of the franchise.
At first, Archer could do no wrong. He had nailed the “yinzer test” after arriving in an Antonio Brown jersey, choosing to wear number 24 to show respect to Andrew McCutchen and warming up to Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow. All was well.
That was until he actually had to pitch.
After a shaky first few starts, many, including myself, were quick to defend Archer. His previous accolades along with a few big strikeouts with runners on base in his first two starts were enough for many to cut him some slack. However, after having yet another disappointing outing on Sunday, the patience for Archer is beginning to wear thin.
In his first five starts with the Bucs, Archer has a 6.04 ERA and 4.68 FIP in only 21.1 innings of work. In all five outings he has struggled to find command early on, allowing runners to get on base. Though at times, he has been able to pitch himself out of a few jams, Archer has struggled to limit his pitch count, resulting in him having yet to make it past the fifth inning in his short Pirates career.
One of the biggest terms you will hear on Wall Street is “Buy low, sell high”. The first part of this phrase is also applicable to how the “bought” Archer. Hitters are batting .278 against Archer this season and he is only leaving 69.9% of runners on base. Both are career worsts. His K/9 (9.58) and BB/9 (3.04) are the lowest he has had since 2014, his second season in the major leagues. Though it would be insane to label Archer as a bust after only five starts, it is fair for one to worry about his long-term abilities after seeing him perform so poorly in 2018.
Whether if it is fair or not, Archer has already played a unique role in Pirates history, as the biggest name acquired through a trade in the Neal Huntington era. Pittsburgh is not in a large market like New York, Boston or Chicago which means it is a much higher risk for them to bring in a player of Archer’s status. While other GM’s like Dave Dombrowski (Boston) or Theo Epstein (Chicago) have the luxury of signing and trading for high end players year in and year out, the Pirates are simply not able to operate on the same level.
Huntington saw enough talent remaining in Archer to roll the dice, and potentially put his job on the line, in order to get him. However, the results of this gamble will not just effect Huntington, but the Pirates organization as a whole. If everything goes well and Archer ends up being the player he once was, the Bucs should be in a great position to compete for a postseason spot for the next few years. On the other side, if Archer never finds his grove in Pittsburgh, things could get very ugly fast, especially if Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows end up being talented major league players.
While it is too early for this trade to be officially deemed a good or bad move, it is fair for fans to have some worries. As it was previously mentioned, the Archer trade is unlike any other move the Pirates front office has made in years. It was very high risk but can also bring back a very high reward. Immediately after the deal was completed, it seemed as though everyone only thought of the good that could come.
However, after watching his first five outings with the Bucs, we have all now seen the bad. Overall, there is still no need to panic with Archer yet. 2019 will tell us everything we need to know about the player the Pirates received for three of the franchise’s top prospects.
Although, it would be nice for him to have one good moment on the mound by the end of this year to potentially ease all of our minds in the offseason.