The Days Of Jeff Locke Need To Be Numbered
Jeff Locke has been a mainstay in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation since the start of the 2013 season, but those days need to be numbered.
Last night against the New York Mets Jeff Locke was horrible. He allowed seven runs on nine hits, a walk, and a home run in just four innings pitched. This outing saw Locke’s ERA rise to 5.92 on the season, and his FIP to 5.27. It is time that the days of Jeff Locke in the Pirate rotation need to be numbered.
This start came on the heels of Jeff Locke allowing 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings pitched in his last start against the Colorado Rockies. In his last two starts Jeff Locke has now allowed 18 earned runs on 20 hits, four walks, and a pair of home runs in just 8 2/3 innings pitched. That comes out to an ERA of 18.69, yikes.
Prior to these last two starts, Jeff Locke had actually pitched decently well this season. Through his first 11 starts Locke had a 4.28 ERA in 67 1/3 innings pitched. Furthermore, Locke was averaging just 3.21 BB/9 during this stretch. His 5.13 FIP and 5.03 xFIP showed that he was due for some regression, though.
In his past two starts that regression has hit Jeff Locke and hard. Even with the inconsistencies of Juan Nicasio and struggles of Francisco Liriano this season, Jeff Locke looks very much like the worst starting pitcher in the Pirate rotation right now. This could not come at a worst time either, as the Pirates are just 4-10 in June and their June schedule only gets more difficult as the month carries on.
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Even though Gerrit Cole is currently on the disabled list, lucky, the Pittsburgh Pirates are only expecting him to miss the minimum 15 days. When Gerrit Cole returns from the disabled list Jameson Taillon, Francisco Liriano, and Jon Niese are all safe in the Pirate rotation. This leaves Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke of being in danger of losing a rotation spot.
However, both Nicasio and Locke could be in danger of losing their rotation spots. One of them will be removed from the rotation for Gerrit Cole when he returns from the disabled list, but the other may not last much longer. This is due Triple-A starters Tyler Glasnow and Cahd Kuhl both looking to be on the doorstep of the Major Leagues.
Personally, I believe both Locke and Nicasio need removed from the rotation. One for Gerrit Cole when he returns and the other for either Tyler Glasnow or Chad Kuhl. However, I believe Juan Nicasio can still help the Pirates out of the bullpen. Locke on the other hand, well, Jeffrey Alan Locke, I am sorry but the time for you to be given a one way ticket for the DFA train has come.
Right now the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates’ season is teetering on the edge. If this team is going to earn their fourth consecutive postseason birth, they currently sit two and a half games behind the New York Mets for the second National League Wild Card spot, their pitching must improve. Removing Jeff Locke from the rotation, the pitching will improve.
Even if neither Tyler Glasnow nor Chad Kuhl are capable of replicating the dominating results they have posted at Triple-A, and expecting them to do so is ridiculous, I fully believe they would both be a big improvement over Locke. With the offensive production the Pirates have gotten for most of the season, just average starting pitching would win them a lot of baseball games. And I feel safe saying that both Glasnow and Kuhl would at least be average.
While the days of Jeff Locke in the Pirates’ rotation needs to be numbered, I also believe that they are. I do not believe it will be much longer until Tyler Glasnow and/or Chad Kuhl are in the Major Leagues. So when you factor in Gerrit Cole returning from the disabled list around the end of the month of June, this will require at least two pitchers being removed from the Pirate rotation. I expect those pitchers to be Jeff Locke and Juan Nicasio.
Next: Mets 11, Pirates 2: Stars And Stiffs
Even though a lot of Pittsburgh Pirate fans have forgotten it, Jeff Locke has helped this team a lot the past four seasons. The first half of the 2013 season Jeff Locke was one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in the National League, and helped propel the Pirates to their first playoff appearance since 1992. In 2014 he helped a Pirate rotation decimated by injuries right the ship, and in turn helped the 2014 Pirates reach the postseason as well.
Unfortunately for Locke and the Pirates, he has not been the same pitcher the past two seasons. In 2013 and 2014 Jeff Locke combined to post a 3.69 ERA, 4.18 FIP, and a 4.06 FIP in 297 2/3 innings pitched. However, the past two seasons Locke has a 4.76 ERA, 4.34 FIP, and 4.32 xFIP since the start of the 2015 season. While these numbers are not terrible for a number five starter, the Pirates simply have better options now. Plus, Locke is pitching the worst he has in his entire Major League career. The days of Jeff Locke in the Pirate rotation need to be numbered.