Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays: Chris Archer, the 20-loss stigma and the measure of this pitcher

I've got to hand it to Rays pitcher Chris Archer. He appears to be going full steam ahead and will pitch tonight in Chicago with a chance to lose his 20th game of 2016.

Ah, the mark of shame.

I would have come up with a stomach flu or something, anything.

Has a "no decision" ever looked more appealing?

A "win" would be better. Remember those?

Archer will give it a go, so give him credit for that, if not much else, in 2016.

This season can't end quickly enough for the Rays. A 20th Archer loss would just about wrap it up. No pitcher has lost 20 games in a season in 13 years.

Granted, this is a week for perspective. A boat on a jetty in Miami told us that. They buried Jose Fernandez on Thursday in Miami. Does all of this really matter at the moment?

You still don't want to lose 20 games.

Who could have imagined this before the season?

Archer seemed poised for greatness.

Still might be. He just turned 28 this week.

On the other hand, he's 40-51 in his career. There is that.

But at least he has set himself up perfectly for Al Comeback Player of the Year in 2017.

Yeah, the baseball metrics boys — and Archer — would tell you wins and losses are overrated, they're not the real measure of a pitcher. And a lot goes into lots of losing, as the Rays have shown this season, dropping games in most of the ways that are imaginable and a few that aren't.

But 20 losses are still 20 losses.

It's enough to make you wonder what the Rays do with Archer. This organization has lots of needs (catcher, corner outfielders, bullpen) and trading Archer might figure into the computations, or at least it should be considered. Then again, what shouldn't?

I love the kid. If I was visiting another nation — say, Cuba — Archer is my ace ambassador. If I need to talk to kids at schools, Chris Archer would be my first choice.

But as a No. 1 starter? Jury is way out on that one. Actually, the jury has begun to filter back into the box. And it doesn't look good.

You know what the Rays could use next season? They could use a healthy Alex Cobb — for once — strong on the mound and in the clubhouse, a leader. The Rays might even need to bring back a James Shields, on the off chance he has something, anything, left in the tank. Put him the bullpen. Watch him influence an entire staff, as he did once before with the Rays.

Getting way ahead of ourselves here.

It's Chris Archer's turn to pitch.

Name me a guy who wants to lose 20 games in one baseball season?

In so many ways, Archer's disappointments symbolize a miserable Rays season.

Back to tonight.

Archer is out to win his ninth game.

More to the point, he's out to not lose his 20th.

That's the 2016 Rays. It's definitely the 2016 Archer.

When's spring training, anyway?

Martin Fennelly is a Times Sports columnist. Contact him at [email protected]

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