Jeff Locke The Reliever


After spending parts of five seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation, Jeff Locke is now a member of the Pirate bullpen.

For the better part of the best five seasons Jeff Locke has been one of the biggest punching bags for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jeff Locke made his Major League debut for the Pirates in 2011, and for most of these six seasons he has been in the Pirates’ starting rotation. However, Locke is now a member of the Pirate bullpen.

During his time as a starting pitcher for the Pirates Jeff Locke’s results have always been up and down. Jeff Locke has had some good moments, some bad moments, and was the very definition of a number four or five starter the past few seasons.

In 2016 however, things went differently for Jeff Locke. In 106 innings pitched as a starting pitcher in 2016 Locke had posted a 4.92 FIP, 5.05 xFIP, and a 1.52 WHIP. Furthermore, opposing hitters had a .355 on-base percentage, .481 slugging percentage, and .357 wOBA against him.

Jeff Locke’s last start went specifically horrible. On August 3rd Locke started against the worst team in all of baseball, the Atlanta Braves. In this start Locke was spotted a 4-0 first inning lead, but this would be all for naught.

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In this August 3rd start Jeff Locked allowed five runs on nine hits, two walks, and just one strikeout in 4 1/3 innings pitched against the worst offensive club in baseball. This was one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ worst losses of the season. If the Pirates miss out on the postseason by one game, that is the kind of losses you look back on and quiver.

After this start, Jeff Locke was demoted to the Pirate bullpen for good. Prior to the start, he had been bouncing between the rotation and bullpen for a month or so. But the August 3rd disaster sealed his fate for good.

Now that Jeff Locke is in the Pirate bullpen, I believe he is in a position to succeed. When Locke has struggled as a starting pitcher it tends to occur the second and third time through the lineup. When pitching in relief, odds are, a pitcher will only have to go through a lineup a max of one time.

If you look at Jeff Locke’s stats, you see a trend. In 2016 opposing batters are hitting .304 against him in both the fourth and fifth innings, and .300 in the sixth inning. So, the more times Locke faces a lineup the more he struggles.

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Even though it is a small sample size, Jeff Locke’s 6 1/3 innings pitched as a reliever this year have been successful. In those 6  1/3 innings pitched Locke has not allowed a run, he has not walked a batter, he has not hit a batter, he has a 1.26 WHIP, a 1.87 FIP, a 3.19 xFIP, and he has struck out four batters. Opposing batters have just a .308 on-base percentage, .423 slugging percentage, and a .312 wOBA off of Locke as a reliever this season. While these numbers are not great, they are a big improvement over Locke’s numbers as a starter and plenty good enough to get by as a long reliever.

Even though it is still a small sample size, Jeff Locke’s career numbers as a reliever are strong as well. In 10 2/3 career innings as a reliever Jeff Locke has a 0.00 ERA, 2.18 FIP, and a 3.65 xFIP. Locke has also held opposing batters to a .225/.225/.300/.525 slash line and a .225 wOBA as a reliever in his career.

In my opinion, Jeff Locke can be a quality long reliever for the Pirates. Not only this, I also believe that Locke could be a quality lefty specialist for the Pirates. This is because throughout his career Locke has done a good job of neutralizing left-handed hitters.

In 2016 left-handed hitters have just a .268/.319/.411/.730 slash line against Locke. This includes left-handed hitters struggling to a .312 wOBA against Jeff Locke in 2016. And these numbers are very similar to Locke’s career numbers against left-handed hitters.

For his career left-handed hitters have a .264/.339/.385/.724 slash line off of Locke. This goes along with a .320 wOBA. The most impressive part is the way Locke has limited left-handed power in his career.

So, on top of being a quality long reliever, I also believe Jeff Locke could be a good lefty specialist for the Pirates. Either way, I believe Locke can bring the Pirates value out of their bullpen. Especially if he is able to fill both roles.

Through 10 2/3 career relief innings, Jeff Locke has done nothing to indicate he can not be a good reliever. In my opinion, he is a good long reliever for the Pirates. Furthermore, Locke could be used as a lefty specialist as well. Jeff Locke is in a good place as a member of the Pirates’ bullpen.