I didn’t really plan on going to the Hillcats game tonight. I knew I’d be in Lynchburg for a reading/writing comprehension test as part of my teaching certification process. I knew I’d be out by 7:00 at the latest. I knew that when I got out, I’d be five minutes from the stadium. I knew that Jeff Locke was on the mound. I just didn’t know if I’d end up going to the game.
Well, I got out at six, and after doing well on the test (at least according to the preliminary results), I decided to head over to the stadium and catch the game. When I arrived, I decided to go down and sit behind home plate to get some video on Jeff Locke. Then I had the idea to record every at-bat.
Unfortunately the video quality isn’t anything to write home about. The main problem is that it’s hard to see the ball, especially with the huge net right in front of me. I was using my cell phone (remember, I didn’t plan this), although my only other option is my digital camera, which is about the same quality since it’s about six years old. So I think one of the first investments I’m going to make with any blog earnings I may receive will be a better video recorder to take to the Hillcats games (which will be followed by podcast equipment). On that note, check out the new products in the store. Just joking around…but not really that much…
Here are the videos, batter by batter:
Final Numbers for Locke:
Total Pitches: 62
1st Inning Pitches: 17
2nd Inning Pitches: 12
3rd Inning Pitches: 33
First Pitch Strikes: 8/14 batters
Balls: 24 (16 in the 3rd)
Locke has a very good curve ball. The best part is that when he misses, it’s low. That leaves little chance for a mistake that will turn in to a homer (which could explain his 0.4 career HR/9 ratio), but increases the odds of wild pitches and passed balls in the dirt (he has one in Lynchburg, but had six with Myrtle Beach, eight last year in A ball, and 7 in 2007 in rookie ball). Personally I’ll take the passed balls over the homers.
As you can see, he used the curve on first pitches a lot tonight, and was pretty effective. He looked great in the first two innings, with a 21:8 strike to ball ratio, and some very nice curve balls. The third inning is an example of what he needs to fix, as his control was off (16 strikes, 16 balls), and it led to two runs on two hits, with a walk.
A lot of the control issues are fastball related. He wasn’t missing by much with the curve balls, and when he did miss, as I mentioned before, it didn’t put him in a situation where he would pay for the mistake. If Locke can master his fastball, it would not only go a long way to improving his control issues, but it would help set up his curve nicely.
I’m not sure what his curve was clocked at, but I did ask one scout in the stands what he was throwing tonight (I assume the guy was a scout, since he had a radar gun). He said Locke was throwing around 89. Not exactly a fireballer, but you can see the speed (or lack of speed) of his curve ball. He doesn’t have to throw mid-90s to get a major change of pace between those two pitches.
This is the third time I’ve seen Locke since he joined Lynchburg, and this outing pretty much sums him up right now for me. His first two innings were great. His third…not so much. In my opinion, his first two innings represent what he could be if he gets his control in order. His third inning represents why he’s not putting up great numbers right now. Looking at his player page, he hasn’t had this problem until this season. Hopefully it’s something that can be fixed, and if it can, he will live up to his top prospect hype.
I also got a video of Jordy Mercer striking out. He struck out twice on this same pitch, both times swinging. This can probably explain his troubles, as the Salem pitchers were throwing the same outside breaking pitch every time Mercer had two strikes…