Tonight Might Be Do Or Die For Jeff Locke

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The Pittsburgh Pirates begin a four game series in Denver against the Colorado Rockies tonight, and left-handed pitcher Jeff Locke will be on the mound. Jeff Locke’s future in the Pirate rotation might hinge on what he does tonight.

This will be Locke’s fourth start of the season, and through the first three the results have not been good. So far this season Locke has pitched 13 2/3 innings and has posted a FIP of 6.83, an xFIP of 6.15, he is walking an abysmal 8.56 batter per nine innings pitched, and is striking out just 4.61 batters per nine innings pitched. Simply put, Locke has been abysmal this season.

Locke’s career numbers are that of a solid number five starter. Entering this season Locke possessed a lifetime 4.08 ERA, 4.12 FIP, and 4.00 xFIP, combine those stats with him being a left-handed pitcher and any team in baseball would take that from their fifth starter. However, Locke has been nowhere near that pitcher this season.

Over the course of the last three seasons Jeff Locke has been in and out of the Pirate rotation, but he remains to be like the turd that won’t flush and keeps finding his way back into a starting role. However, with a poor start tonight I believe that could change.

Prized pitching prospects Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are looming at AAA, especially Taillon who appears to be on the brink of the Majors. But even without prematurely calling Taillon or Glasnow up from the Minors, the Bucs can always look to right-hander Ryan Vogelsong to replace Jeff Locke in the rotation.

Vogelsong has pitched 10 innings this year, in one start, and has posted a solid 3.60 ERA. Vogelsong’s ERA is a little misleading as his .214 BABIP, 5.89 FIP, and 5.13 xFIP all indicate he is due for some serious regression. But right now I still believe he would be a better starting option than Locke is.

Adding to the pressure for Locke tonight is that his team, desperately, needs him to pitch deep into this game. The Pirates played 13 innings yesterday, and used six different relievers. Odds are that at least Ryan Vogelsong, Kyle Lobstein, and Neftali Feliz will all be unavailable tonight. The Pirates desperately need Locke to go at least six innings tonight, and that just adds to the pressure on him to pitch well tonight.

Since the start of the 2012 season Jeff Locke has made 90 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates, however if he struggles tonight he may not get very many more opportunities to start games for the Pirates. The Pirates are in it to win it this season, and they can not continue to trot Jeff Locke out there every fifth day if he is going to continue to get shelled. Tonight very well might be do or die for Jeff Locke and his career as a starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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