Chris Archer -- the little-known 26-year-old who hasn't allowed an earned run in four starts -- is the best pitcher in the American League

Chris ArcherGetty ImagesChris Archer is doing things that have never been done before.

At 26 years old, third-year pitcher Chris Archer has quietly become the American League’s best pitcher and has the surprising Tampa Bay Rays sitting atop the AL East.

Because of an injury to Alex Cobb, Archer was moved up on short rest to pitch on Opening Day. In that game he allowed four runs in just 5.2 innings, taking the loss.

But take a look at what Archer has done in the four starts since Opening Day:

  • 26.2 innings pitched
  • 12 hits
  • 5 walks
  • 32 strikeouts
  • 0.00 ERA

A pitcher is doing well if his strikeout-to-walk ratio is over 3.0. Archer’s 6.4. That’s off the charts.

Archer is the first AL pitcher since 2009 to make four-straight starts without allowing an earned run. He is also the only pitcher since at least 1914 (the first year with records available) to have three starts in which he worked at least 7.0 innings and allowed no runs and two or fewer hits in his team’s first 20 games of the season.

More importantly, the Rays are 3-1 in those starts with the lone blemish being a 1-0 loss to the Red Sox in which the only run came via an error.

Archer’s success is not a complete surprise to those who follow baseball closely. He does have a 3.28 ERA in 55 starts the last two seasons combined, an upper-90s fastball with nasty movement…

… and one of the best sliders in baseball.

However, before this season, Archer was best known for getting into a verbal spat with David Ortiz of the Red Sox over his bat flips and slow home run trots, saying the slugger sometimes acts like “he’s bigger than the game.”

Archer’s anonymity comes in part from pitching for the low-revenue Rays. But it is also in part due to the depth of pitching the Rays have enjoyed in recent years.

A year ago, Archer was just the fourth-best starting pitcher on his own team, behind Cobb, David Price, and Matt Moore. Since then, Price was traded to the Detroit Tigers, Moore had Tommy John surgery, and Cobb was injured in spring training.

This all bodes well for the Rays, who are off to a good start and should only get better when Cobb and Moore return.

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