Jeff Locke has a clear path to success against the Brewers


Jeff Locke had a very encouraging beginning to his 2015 season. Scattering seven hits over six innings while only walking one batter was exactly what we needed to see from Locke.  That start alone gave Locke something to build on after winning the coveted last job in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.

Locke will look to keep things going against the Brewers tomorrow at PNC Park.  The Bucs will try to give their starter some more run support after being shutout in their past two games.  Locke will look to continue the trend of quality outings set by rotation mates Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett.  The team must score more runs and stop wasting these excellent starts at the front-end of the schedule, when they have historically struggled.  If they can find their way to four or five runs, that may very well be all that Locke needs.  In order to do his part, it would behoove him to do the following:

1.  Pitch to Aramis Ramirez

Against Jeff Locke, Ramirez is only 2-for-17 for a .118/.286/.353 slashline.  If I stopped there, you would think that Lcoke has Ramirez’s number.  But upon closer inspection, we see the soon to be retired slugger has drawn four walks to go along with a home run and a double which together make up those two hits.  Ramirez serves as a personal microcosm of Locke’s struggles the past few years, but if I were Locke I would take my chances and actually pitch to him and make him put the ball in play.

2.  Attack Jonathan Lucroy while he is scuffling

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Lucroy broke out for the Brewers in a huge way in 2014.  This year, he is off to a 4-for-27 start, with goose eggs in RBI and HR.  Lucroy has also been moved around in the order, sometimes even batting second in an attempt to get better pitches to hit to help him break out of the slump.  Locke needs to take advantage now, because Lucroy gets the better of him more often than not, posting a career slash of .400/.550/.667 in 15 career at-bats against the southpaw, while drawing five walks.  The same approach to Ramirez largely applies here, but Locke would do well to take extra advantage of the struggling Brewers catcher rather than be Lucroy’s slumpbuster.

3.  Avoid extra base hits

The Brewers slugged three doubles against Locke in his six innings of work.  While it’s very obvious that all pitchers need to avoid extra-bag knocks, it’s doubly important for Locke.  For a pitcher whose control issues could flare up at any time, it’s imperative that he limits opposing hitters to singles to avoid high-leverage situations, which may allow his other skeleton, the long ball, to jump out of his closet.

It will be a very interesting start for Locke, and one which will help us determine which version of the lefty we can expect the rest of the way.

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