Chris Archer continued a dominant run of performances with an 11-strikeout, zero-walk game in 7 shutout innings. It was his third game in a row with at least 10 K’s and no walks allowed, the longest such streak on record. His line in his past three starts is 23.0 IP, 14 H, 1 ER, 38 K, 0 BB, with a 2-0 record. But until now, Archer had quietly been one of the best pitchers in the American League, a fitting for a team of mostly unknown widely players with only Evan Longoria as a holdover from the franchise’s glory years. Names like Logan Forsythe, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, and role players like Joey Butler and Mikie Mahtook, who contributed a homerun and a great play in centerfield in Sunday’s win, would hardly ring a bell for fans outside the AL East, but they have powered the resurgent Rays to a 31-27 records and 2nd place in the standings.
As for Archer, in just one year he has upped his K% from a solid 21.1% to an extraordinary 33.4%, while cutting his walk rate a couple of points to 6.2%. A quick dive into player profile doesn’t reveal a pitcher who has reinvented himself over night, but rather one who’s refined an already formidable pitch-mix. Archer’s fastball % is down 11% to 54.5, and he’s made up for it mainly by throwing his slider (called the ‘best pitch in baseball’ by his former teammate, David Price) more often, at a 37.8% rate. He’s also throwing it harder than ever before, with an 87.8 mph average velocity. He relied heavily on a two-seam fastball in 2014, but has gone back to his four-seamer this year. As a result, hitter contact % against him has dropped from 78.4 all the way to 72.7; he looks like the real deal.
Clayton Kershaw, though he’s no Chris Archer, somehow managed to keep Cardinals’ hitters off balance with his smoke-and-mirrors repertoire of junk. His start on Saturday, when he excorcised the ghosts of all his most painful failures by striking out 11 Cardinals and walking none in 8 shutout, one-hit innings, is a perfect example of the unpredictability of baseball. Since, of course, it is an article of faith around the OBB corporate offices that Kershaw is a true-talent 3.50 ERA pitcher, at best. Kershaw’s Saturday performance, his best of a sometimes frustrating season, pushed his ERA down below that mark to 3.36. Can you spell ‘fluke’? Only if you use 11 K’s. It is, in all likelihood, the last time the Cardinals will lose a game in 2015.
Late Sunday, the Astros announced the are calling up Carlos Correa, their Shortstop of the Future, at only 20 years old. Though he was seen by some as a strategic signability pick when he was taken #1 overall in 2012, he has risen all the way to #2 on the Baseball America prospect list. Even though the ‘Stros have gotten decent production out of the SS position, Jed Lowrie has been out for a month and Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez have combined to be somewhat but not painfully below average at the plate. Correa’s performance, and the Astros position in the standings, were simply both too good to put off this call-up any longer. 80-power freak Joey Gallo debuted in the AL West early this week, homered in his first two games, and already has been overshadowed by the new shiny thing. Or how about his teammate, Lance McCullers, who threw a 1-run, 4-hit, 11-strikeout, no walk CG in just his 4th career start on Wednesday? The number of high-profile callups (without mentioning the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Addison Russell), and the impact those players have made, has seemed elevated thus far in 2015. We’ll get a chance to see if Correa can fit right in with an early splash.
And there’s no ‘I’ in Carlos Correa, but there are two in Kevin Correia, who’s also on the fast-track to the major leagues. Dodgers fans might remember him as “that guy who was our #5 starter for awhile last year”, and they might also recall that things like “Kevin Correia was our #5 starter” are big reasons why the Dodgers have struggled to advance the past couple years. But now he’s on the Phillies, so it doesn’t matter. Congratulations, Kevin.
Featured Image: Via The Associated Press