Among the shiny new accoutrements at Tropicana Field, like the new turf and the Urban Dugout chicken waffle-cone, is a bright new video screen in centerfield, which replaces the old black-and-white 8-bit graphic screen. It’s a welcome addition for geeks like me, who compulsively crane their necks to see the pitch type and velocity.
On Sunday, I noticed something on the screen that I chalked up to an Opening Day anomaly. In one inning, I cannot remember which, Chris Archer had thrown a handful of low-’90s curveballs, and a couple of upper-’80s cutters…or at least that’s what the video screen said. I was confused, as I was under the impression that Archer was a three-pitch pitcher: fastball, slider, and changeup. I asked the drunken neighbor next to me if it seemed odd, that Archer had not one, but two newfound tools — both of which he uncorked on Opening Day, not during Spring Training. He slurred something in response, and I went back to eating my sunflower seeds.
In writing the game one recap, I found myself on Brooks Baseball (not quite) haunted by the question, is Archer now a four-pitch pitcher? Alas nothing seemed out of place at that particular Pitch F/X site, so I went back to my working hypothesis, that the video board operator has a couple of bugs they need to work out. Ian Malinowski (DRaysBay), however, noticed something odd as well, and he did a little sleuthing.
Of Archer’s 108 pitches, 50 were fastballs, 42 were sliders, and 16 were changeups. The first things that pop out in the table below are that not only is Archer a pitcher with a great fastball/slider combination, but he also has developed a very legitimate changeup. Nothing really groundbreaking there.
It wasn’t until Malinowski zeroed in on just the sliders (seen below) that something interesting popped up.
There is a 10 mph difference between his fastest and slowest slider. In short, each slider may be thrown with identical movement, however, because of of the difference in speed — paired with the Magnus Force on the spinning baseball — they become two completely different pitches.
In a nutshell, Archer now could be a four pitch-pitcher: fastball, slider — two different types based on velocity — and changeup, and perhaps that’s why the video board operator was confused. Then again, the vast difference in speed could have been an anomaly from a pitcher who is still building his arm strength. The only way to tell will be to accrue more information over his next few starts.
The New What Next
Jake Odorizzi (10-6, 3.69 in 2016) will make his first start of 2017 opposite of Grimmace, urm…CC Sabathia (9-12, 3.91 ERA in 2016). Odorizzi went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA in three starts against the Bronx Bummers last season. After a rather slow start to the 2016 season, the right-hander went 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA following the All-Star break.
The veteran southpaw is beginning his 17th big league season. Over his career against the Rays, Sabathia is 14-14 with a 3.83 ERA, and 5-8 with a 3.98 ERA at the Trop. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (2-6, 2B, RBI, BB), Peter Bourjos (3-12), Kevin Kiermaier (4-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (29-72, 9 2B, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 13 BB), Logan Morrison (2-3), Derek Norris (3-9, 2B, HR, 5 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (5-11, HR, RBI, 2 BB)
Rays 4/4/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr RF
— Steven Souza Jr. will hit in the leadoff spot against the left-handed Sabathia, while Rickie Weeks Jr. and Peter Bourjos will make their regular season debuts today.
In other pregame notes…
— Rays manager Kevin Cash said he knows that Robertson doesn’t have lot of experience as the designated hitter, but he wanted to get him in versus left-handed pitching.
— Cash also said right-handed platoons primarily will be in left field, first base and DH, meaning Kevin Kiermaier and Brad Miller will get most of the reps versus southpaws.
— In keeping with the momentum built with the win on Sunday, you are cordially invited to a Baseball Forever Rally at Ferg’s on Wednesday, with a Special Giveaway!
From the press release:
When? Wednesday, April 5
Where? Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill
Time? Party starts at 5:30 p.m.
Ferg’s will be flexing their traditional game day spirit and there will be a special Baseball Forever giveaway for all attendees. Afterwards, we’ll walk over to The Trop together to watch Mayor Kriseman throw the first pitch as the Tampa Bay Rays face off against the Yankees at 7:10 p.m.
Get your tickets, here! Trust us, you don’t want to miss this. #RaysUp
More information at www.baseballforever.com