Archer, 30, is off to his typical enigmatic start this season, striking out batters at an elite rate but ultimately failing to prevent runs at an ace-level pace. Concerning also are a slight uptick in walks – to a career-worst 4.00 per nine thus far – and a 32% grounder rate that’s dipped well below his career average. Archer’s average fastball velocity has also dropped nearly two miles an hour, to a career-low 93.4 MPH, though his swinging strike percentage has remained mostly stable.
Acquired in a controversial midseason trade last season that sent Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and prospect Shane Baz to Tampa Bay, Archer has long been the rare starting pitcher – along with perhaps Jon Gray of the Rockies – whose ace-level peripherals consistently lag behind their actual run prevention. Pittsburgh obviously bet heavily on the trend coming to an end, but thus far the profile looks like more of the same.
It’s unclear who’ll be Archer’s replacement in the Pittsburgh rotation – the team’s depth in the area is frighteningly thin – but the injury seems relatively minor, the club has a couple off-days upcoming, and the rest of the unit – spearheaded by Archer’s statistical inverse in Trevor Williams – has so far been brilliant.