The Minnesota Twins have set themselves up to be in contention for October baseball after a strong offseason, but one move has stuck with me throughout this early hot start: the signing of Chris Archer. This joker in a deck of cards move has been huge in 2022 and it could just lead to Archer being named your 2022 AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Chris Archer could be an award-winner with the Minnesota Twins.
Welcome back to my series Brain Fog, where I will be making outlandish takes about the Minnesota Twins and trying to back them up with reasoning and logic. Anything can happen in baseball, so why not take that approach with fun scenarios that no one will entertain? Let me take the time to entertain you.
Returning to Previous Form with the Minnesota Twins.
After two starts, Archer is appearing to be his old self again. According to Baseball Savant, Archer is allowing his slowest exit velocity to date (87.7 MPH), second lowest sweet spot % (33.3), lowest hardhit% (30.4), and second lowest xERA (3.47).
Of course, these are all subject to change dramatically with more starts under his belt, but Archer is raising eyebrows all across the board. This signing seems to be a dumpster dive to fill innings, but he now looks like a great fit as an excellent 4-5 starter.
With the new “deadball era”, Archer is one pitcher that is seeing benefits from it. His high usage of sliders (49.8%) and 4-Seam fastballs (43.4%) are nailing the strike zone at a high rate, leading to outs. This is big for him given his age and injury history, as he has seems to have figured out how to play with the zone and produce outs and remain effective. Adam Wainwright and C.C Sabathia modeled this for veteran pitchers to prolong their careers.
He’s also put himself in some elite company in terms of velocity and movement, with Zac Gallen and Justin Verlander posting similar numbers. It’s a really good sign when you’re posting numbers that align with potential Cy Young candidates.
How is this working for the Minnesota Twins starter?
Looking at Archers impressive statline vs his percentile rankings, how is it even possible? The percentile rankings show Archer as a league-average or below-average pitcher, but he is showcasing a 2.93 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.
It’s probably the low number of innings. The Twins have not pitched Archer more than 5 innings this season, and the most runs he has allowed in a start is two. He’s essentially only getting through the lineup twice each start before being pulled and watching the younger more electric bullpen take over and finish the job.
Archer just playing his role has resulted in him having no wins to his record this season, but the Twins are first in the AL Central. It is the little things that count, and his consistently strong starts have counted quite a bit.
Michael Wacha of the Boston Red Sox delivers a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Who are Archer’s competitors for the award?
Noah Syndergaard and Michael Wacha have been very impressive and seem to be Archer’s biggest threats to winning. Thor is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP over 24 innings, and his statline is eerie similar to Archer’s. Where Syndergaard is showing the difference is with his percentile rankings.
Only three categories are at average or below average. The rest of his page lights up red as elite percentiles, as he is limiting walks while also not allowing the big hits. The big challenge for him will be playing the full season and not letting injury get the best of him.
So far this year though, Wacha has been the most impressive out of the three pitchers. He has generated a 1.4 WAR with a 3-0 record, a 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 26 innings pitched. He is also limiting the big hits, but his walk rate is in the 32nd percentile. Not as nice.
On top of that, his strikeout rating is low as well, currently landing in the the 31st percentile. This could hurt Wacha, as it’s backed up by his very low whiff%, chase rate, and fastball spin rate. The early success has been fun to see, but it does not seem it will last very long.
Why Archer will win AL Comeback Player of the Year
Chris Archer has the best chance to win this award solely because of his team. Having Buxton in center field to cover the entire outfield and catching everything will boost his ERA and the dead ball will help generate more flyball outs.
The weak AL Central will allow the Twins to capitalize on weaker opponents, something the Angels and Red Sox won’t be able to do battling the Mariners and Astros or the entire AL East.
Thor’s approach will become more noticeable and teams will find out how to get hits off of him fairly quickly. Wacha does not have much more time to keep thriving, especially with the Red Sox struggling so far. This award will not be won by the merits of the individual, but the impact they will have in leading their teams to winning games.