The Pittsburgh Pirates had a disappointing 2016 season. As the off-season begins, it is time to grade out the club. Today we look at Jeff Locke, who continued to regress.
One player that continued to frustrate fans in 2016 was Jeff Locke. From 2013-2015, having Locke in the rotation was frustrating, but acceptable because the team managed to win and compete in spite of him. But this past season, even the team seemingly had enough of him, moving him to the pen after 19 starts. He wasn’t terrible out of the pen, but with Locke not being tied to a contract for next season (the Pirates could choose to non-tender him like they did with Pedro Alvarez), and the Pirates trying to get back to contention, his future as a Pirate could be in doubt.
Let’s look back at some highlights from Locke’s 2016 campaign.
Short Outings Persist
Locke has essentially been a filler pitcher for the Pirates for the past few seasons. He hasn’t been that good, but the team has kept him around because he’s a lefty, they didn’t see the benefit in paying more for someone else to replace him, and because the team was still winning. But that doesn’t mean that he was putting in quality outings. Yes, he had the occasional great start, but those were becoming few and far between.
What continued to become more frequent for Locke was his short outings. Even in the outings that he lasted six innings or longer, he was still giving up runs. In only four of Locke’s 19 starts did he give up no runs, and only six of those did he give up one run or less. He only pitched more than six innings in seven starts, and in three of those seven starts he gave up at least three runs.
So were his longer outings actually quality outings? A few were, sure, but some weren’t. For the most part, Locke had many short outings, not ideal for a starter.
Move to Bullpen
Locke was moved to the bullpen after the All-Star break, and he was more successful there. Or so it seemed.
Many will say that Locke wasn’t terrible out of the pen, and actually had a few good outings from the pen. And that’s true. He started out well, as he had three straight outings in August without allowing a run. Maybe having a lefty out of the pen, and not having batters face Locke a second or third time could be beneficial. But he still had three outings where he gave up a run, and one where he was hung out to dry against the Cardinals.
All-in-all, Locke’s ERA didn’t improve out of the pen. He had a 5.02 ERA in August and a 6.43 ERA in September. His outings looked better in comparison to his starts, but he was still just as erratic.
I’d venture a guess that the Pirates are certainly considering keeping Locke and using him out of the pen next season, but they should also consider parting ways.
Finished as a Pirate?
So Locke didn’t fare too well this past season. He seemed to have a little more success when he was moved to the pen, but he wasn’t anything to brag about. The Pirates have a decision to make on him for next season. Do they tender him a contract, or do they pass? Passing wouldn’t be unheard of, as the Pirates did it last season with Pedro Alvarez. Locke will likely get a raise in arbitration, as almost all players do, so the Pirates will need to think he’s worth upwards of $3 million next season to bring him back. With a negative WAR in 2016, he wasn’t worth that much this past season.
The Pirates have cheaper and better internal options to replace him next year. It might be smartest to save money on Locke and spend it elsewhere this off-season.
Conclusion and Final Grade
Jeff Locke has regressed each year since 2013. Even his move to the bullpen wasn’t sparkling. His future should be in jeopardy with the Pirates, but who knows if it really is. The Pirates have much better internal options, or could get a reclamation bullpen arm out of free agency for what Locke will cost next season. For a team that has financial restraints, bringing Locke back next season would not a a smart way to spend money.
Some may argue that I’m being too generous on Locke, but I grade him out at a D- for his 2016 campaign.
What Grade would you give Jeff Locke?
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Our grade hits at noon, but what grade would YOU give Jeff Locke for his 2016 campaign?
— Pirates Breakdown (@pbcbreakdown) November 8, 2016
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