By Jason Shetler
Jeff Locke began his first full season in the Pirates rotation in 2013. His first half numbers that year resulted in a trip to the All-Star Game. The second half however was a much different story, as he posted a 6.12 ERA, and was left off the postseason roster. In 2014, Locke didn’t join the Pirates until midseason. He beat out Vance Worley for the fifth spot in Spring Training of last year, pitching in the rotation the entire season. Let’s compare Locke’s numbers from 2014 and 2015, and what his projection is for the upcoming season.
2014: 3.91 ERA, 92 ERA+, 4.37 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 6.1 K/9, 0.3 WAR in 21 starts
2015: 4.46 ERA, 86 ERA+, 3.95 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 1.6 WAR in 30 starts
2016 (FanGraphs): 4.25 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 0.9 WAR in 24 starts
The past couple seasons for Locke have been interesting. His Fielding Independent Pitching was higher than the ERA two years ago while his 2015 FIP was significantly better then the ERA indicates. Locke had a higher walk ratio last season, but the strikeout ratio was better compared to 2014. While he didn’t have a great year in 2015, he was at least above replacement level.
My analysis: Jeff Locke has tried to establish himself as a groundball pitcher. In 2014, his 2-seam fastball was thrown 38.6% of the time. He relied on it much more heavily last season at about 60%. The problem though for Locke has been lacking command of the 2-seamer by trying to nibble the corners too much and avoiding contact, which leads to trouble. Locke doesn’t have a high strikeout ratio, so he’s not able to work out of jams as consistent as someone like Francisco Liriano. The Pirates are hoping Locke can pitch decent enough once Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon receive their call up.