Archer Right on Target

Chris Archer (PHOTO/DENNIS SIEVERS)

PEORIA – Chris Archer recently completed his second full year in professional baseball and his first in the Cubs organization. Crunching the numbers, Archer's accuracy is improving.

When the Fall Instructional League season kicked off earlier this week, Archer was one of the promising names on the roster of roughly 45 players. He was joined by 2009 Peoria Chiefs teammates Alberto Cabrera, Brett Jackson, D. J. LeMahieu, Ryan Flaherty, Kyler Burke, Michael Brenly, Rebel Ridling, and Jovan Rosa.

While in Arizona, Archer will continue to work on pitches and accuracy with more one-on-one instruction from the pitching coaches that Instructs provides.

"You never want to get complacent," Archer said. "I definitely made a large turnaround from last year and I want to keep continuing to get better."

Archer spent all of 2008 with the Lake County Captains of the Class A South Atlantic League before coming over in the Mark DeRosa trade with the Cleveland Indians that still stings the Cubs faithful today. With the Captains, Archer ended the year with a 4-8 record and a 4.29 ERA after starting 27 games.

With a new team and organization, he made significant steps in becoming a pitcher, rather than just a thrower.

"Really just confidence," Archer said when asked about the biggest thing he improved on between 2008 and '09. "It leads to a bunch of other things like fastball command, throwing off-speed pitches for strikes, and confidence in my stuff."

Archer, who turns 21 at the end of the month, closed this season 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 27 games (26 starts). Archer pitched slightly more innings last year (115.1) compared to this season (109), but that is largely due to the fact that the Cubs placed 70-pitch limits on him this season.

In fewer innings of work, the North Carolina native and 2006 fifth-round Indians draft pick led the Chiefs in strikeouts with 119 (versus 106 in '08) and walked 66 batters, 18 fewer than the previous season.

Perhaps the biggest confidence boost coming off his '09 campaign is that Archer did not give a home run all year. Throughout the season, Archer held opponents to just above the Mendoza line with a .202 batting average against. Batters hit him 78 times, down from 92 the year before, as Archer allowed only 34 earned runs to his previous season total of 55.

When runners did get on base against Archer, he did not do the best in battening down the hatches and getting out of jams. His ERA with runners on was 5.67, and 7.82 when runners were in scoring position.

The first inning of some of Archer's starts seemed to be his worst enemy. But he kept the same approach and a short term memory to each start.

"I don't even about it," Archer said. "There have been games where I have struggled in the first inning and there have been games when I've been lights out. So I don't really think about it. I go in with the same mentality whether I am a little tight or whatever. I have the same mentality; just some days the ball feels a little better coming out of the hand."

With opponents' batting average and Archer's ERA on the way down, it has the Cubs' organization looking up. Archer will continue to polish his skills in Arizona until October 17 with pitching coaches Jeff Fassero and Rick Tronerud, and he knows he will be working on commanding his best pitch.

"I need to improve my fastball command," Archer stated. "It improved but there is still room for more improvement."

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