Jeff Locke is currently having another poor second half. Last year it was predictable. He posted a 2.15 ERA in 109 innings during the first half, with a 4.21 xFIP that suggested things wouldn’t go so well in the second half. And things didn’t go well. Locke’s control bottomed out in the second half, with a 5.8 BB/9 ratio, helping to lead to a 6.12 ERA and a 4.14 xFIP.
This year it looked like Locke would be getting over his control issues and avoid any second half struggles. He posted a 2.89 ERA in the first half, with a 3.31 xFIP that suggested a slight regression, but which also suggested that he would be one of the better pitchers in the rotation going forward. A big reason for that was the total elimination of his walks, with an 0.96 BB/9 ratio.
So far, Locke hasn’t been the same pitcher in the second half. He has a 4.34 ERA and a 4.19 xFIP in 64.1 innings. While he totally eliminated the walks in the first half, that hasn’t been the case in the second half. Locke is walking 4.06 batters per nine innings in the second half. It was the same situation tonight, as Locke walked three batters in 5.1 innings.
The second half hasn’t been all bad though. There have been some good outings, specifically when Locke’s control is better. His last start saw one run in seven innings, after no walks were allowed. Two starts before that he gave up one run in 7.1 innings, with two walks. Two before that he threw 5.2 shutout innings, walking two.
Locke has basically been a number four starter in the second half, after pitching like a number two starter in the first half. Fortunately, when he’s on, he’s really on. And he’s not just beating up on weak teams. Two of his biggest performances came against the Cardinals and Nationals.
The question you’d have to ask is whether Locke is good enough for the playoff rotation. Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole would be locks for that rotation, even though Liriano is the only one of the two who has pitched like a top of the rotation guy. Edinson Volquez has an xFIP that says he’ll probably be a number four starter going forward, although it would be hard for the Pirates to move away from him as long as he is getting the results of a top of the rotation guy. Vance Worley has been better than Locke in the second half, and has been solid all season.
Locke is going to be a frustrating player to watch if he keeps up his second half performance. He can help the team, especially when the control is on, but there will also be outings where he hurts the team. I guess that’s the life of a number four starter. I think the Pirates will have better options for the rotation than Locke heading into a playoff series. But for the regular season, they’ll need his help, and will hope for more of the start we saw last week, and less of the start we saw last night.
For more on Locke, check out Jeremy Tepper’s article from the game.
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