At this time last season, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke was sitting with a 7-1 record and a 2.06 ERA on his way to making his first All-Star appearance of his young career.
Needless to say things didn’t go very well for Locke after that but the southpaw has made the long road back to being a contributor in the Pirates’ rotation.
After an eight inning performance Friday night in which Locke allowed only seven hits and a pair of runs while striking out seven, he’s making a strong case that he belongs in the rotation for the rest of the season.
With that in mind, he should be worth a look if you are in need of some pitching depth.
Many forget that Locke suffered a back injury that forced him to miss his final start before the All-Star break last season.
While that is not made to be an excuse and neither Locke nor the Pirates will use it as one as to why Locke pitched so poorly to close last season, something clearly wasn’t right with Locke.
Since his return to the big leagues, which spans only three starts, Locke has been nothing short of outstanding.
Take away one bad inning in his first start against the San Francisco Giants in which Locke allowed five runs on six hits and he has combined to throw 19.1 outstanding innings in which he has allowed only 12 hits and four runs, while striking out 20.
Even during his one bad inning, Locke was the victim of a little bad luck as I put more focus on the fact that he mowed down the Giants and retired 13 in a row at one point.
More importantly Locke is attacking hitters and not nibbling like he did at points last season and the results have been great. He is pitching off his fastball and has walked only one batter in 20.1 innings of work.
He has the ability that would suggest that he could be a capable third or fourth fantasy starter and if he is throwing strikes consistently, that is even more the case. If he is putting people on base and can’t find the plate, needless to say Locke has very little value.
Locke should have won his last two games, but even more important he is being efficient with his pitches and getting deeper into ball games, having thrown seven innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday and eight last night.
He also boasts a nice 2.20 FIP and his numbers are better across the board compared to his nice start of the 2013 season.
The bottom line is that Locke isn’t nearly as good as a pitcher as he showed during the first half of last season. But he also isn’t nearly as bad of a pitcher as he demonstrated in the second half of 2013.
It’s a small sample size for sure, but Locke has proven to be a guy that can give the Pirates a chance to win when he takes the ball, which also means he should start to open some eyes in terms of being a guy worth picking up.
Right now the Pirates’ pitching staff needs a guy like that and Locke has delivered in a big way. His next start comes against the Cincinnati Reds, so he will be tested and will also get the opportunity to make a statement.
When the Pirates arms get healthy, manager Clint Hurdle is going to have some decisions to make.
Locke is certainly making his case that he deserves to stick around for a while.
If he does he could be a guy that could end up being a sneaky pick up and one that could pay nice dividends down the road.