Jeff Locke Is Better Than People Realize

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The much maligned Jeff Locke made his season debut for the Pirates yesterday. Even though the Pirates were unable to earn a victory in their rubber match of the three game series with the Cincinnati Reds, it was not due to Locke’s performance. The reason the Pirates lost was due to the offense leaving 14 men on base and not backing up Locke’s excellent outing.

For the past three seasons no Pirate pitcher has caught more flak from the fan base than Jeff Locke has. I am sure this season will be no different, especially based on Twitter yesterday. However, Jeff Locke is better than anyone gives him credit for.

Locke pitched 6 strong innings yesterday allowing just a Eugenio Suarez solo home run on seven hits, two walks, and a strikeout. Locke also did a nice job of pitching out of a couple jams throughout the course of the game.

For Locke’s career he has a 4.13 ERA and a 4.08 xFIP. Last season he posted a 3.94 xFIP, his xFIP in 2014 was 3.90, and in 2013 it was 4.19. The league average for xFIP is 3.80-4.10. So Locke has been about a league average pitcher over the course the past three seasons.

Apr 10, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

Left-handed pitchers always carry more value than right-handed pitchers do. Plus, PNC Park is very friendly toward left-handed pitchers. This is a big reason why Locke has a lifetime 3.91 ERA in 274 innings pitched at PNC Park.

One reason that Locke carries more value than people realize is that he is the Pirates number five starter. Locke is better than most number five starters around baseball, even though many Pirate fans fail to see this. If Jeff Locke can duplicate what he did last season when he posted a 1.6 WAR in 168 1/3 innings pitched, he will once again be a very good number five starter.

Some people will say that they believe to be a real playoff contender you need a rotation with five great starters. Well the fact is this simply does not exist in the National League. Take the New York Mets, who have the best rotation in the National League, for example. Their fifth starter Bartolo Colon posted a 3.94 xFIP last year, aka the exact same as Locke’s.

Throughout the course of the season Jeff Locke will continue to draw criticism from Pirate fans. However, he is better than people give him credit for. He is also better than your average number five starter. When Jeff Locke is your number five starter you have a strong, deep rotation.