I was hoping to see Rudy Owens in action this weekend, figuring he would pitch tonight since his last outing was on the 8th. I found out later that his next start will be Tuesday, which means I won’t see him this weekend (Matt McSwain pitches tomorrow, and I think Justin Wilson pitches Sunday). I did get to see Jeff Locke in action again tonight.
Since coming over in the Nate McLouth trade, Jeff Locke has made seven starts at home in Lynchburg, and I think I’ve been to every one of them. Not really, but this was the fourth time I’ve seen him, and as you probably know, I did a video recap of the last outing on July 17th. I think Locke is a really talented pitcher, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to do another video recap, which is why I took a camera to the game tonight.
Tonight the Hillcats were playing in Pirates jerseys, and auctioning the jerseys off. I was bidding on a few players, but focused on Owens and Chase d’Arnaud. I won the Owens jersey, and just missed out on the d’Arnaud jersey. I was out-bid while checking on my status with Owens (other end of the table), came back to see my status with d’Arnaud, and couldn’t find a pen to make a new bid. I asked for a pen, made it clear I was going to bid on the jersey, even asking for a verbal bid since there was no pen around on this half of the table, but by the time I got the pen the bidding had ended.
I didn’t really feel like pushing it, since that would kind of be a dickish thing to do, and since I did get the Owens jersey. The only bad part about it was that d’Arnaud was covered in dirt from sliding around on the field (he stole third), and that’s the kind of jersey you want for a game-used version. I did meet Owens and d’Arnaud after the game on the field, and both agreed to do an interview for the site this weekend (I’ll be going back Saturday and Sunday). So be on the lookout for that. Chase also jokingly apologized for his two strikeout performance, although he got his third steal in as many games, extended his hitting streak to eight games, and walked once, all of which makes up for the strikeouts.
The videos for Locke, and analysis:
Final Numbers for Locke:
Total Pitches: 99
1st Inning Pitches: 18
2nd Inning Pitches: 14
3rd Inning Pitches: 24
4th Inning Pitches: 11
5th Inning Pitches: 16
6th Inning Pitches: 16
First Pitch Strikes: 22/30 batters
The box score looks bad on this one, but Locke actually pitched pretty well for someone who allowed five runs and 12 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He was the victim of some bad luck, with a few bad bounces, some strange plays out in the field, a few balls just out of reach of the fielders, and some seeing eye singles. That stuff happens, but not as frequently as it happened tonight.
Locke had great control, with 67 of his 99 pitches going for strikes. He threw a first pitch strike to 22 of the 30 batters he faced. Locke mainly focused on his fastball and curve ball, which is something I’ve noticed in every start. In my opinion, and effective starter needs more than two pitches, just to try and fool the hitters a bit by giving them more options to think about.
Now I’m not saying Locke is not an effective starter. The Pirates have shown a tendency to focus on fastball command in the lower levels. Pretty much every pitcher Neal Huntington has acquired has been a ground ball heavy pitcher. What are the two pitches Locke throws? A fastball, and a curve ball that is good at producing ground balls.
It’s my theory that, since Locke is fairly new to the Pirates’ system, they’re focused more on his control and command of his fastball, and less on the results of attacking lineups with primarily two pitches. You look at Locke’s numbers at Lynchburg and notice that while he has a 4.94 ERA, he also has a 41:16 K/BB ratio in 58.1 innings pitched. That’s a decent amount of strikeouts, and a great walk ratio. The walk ratio is especially impressive when you look at what he did while with Myrtle Beach. Locke had a 5.1 BB/9 ratio before the McLouth trade, and has posted a 2.4 BB/9 ratio since the McLouth trade, pretty much cutting his walks in half.
Locke’s numbers almost remind me of Rudy Owens last year. Owens had a high ERA in State College, mostly because the majority of pitches the Spikes threw were fastballs. However, Owens had a 45:13 K/BB ratio in 58 innings pitched. He mostly used a fastball and his exceptional changeup up until this year. His curve ball was rarely used last year, until the 2008 fall league where he was instructed to use it more. Now he employs more of a three pitch arsenal, which could be one reason for his success.
That raises the question: when Locke starts mixing a third pitch in with his fastball and excellent curve ball, will we see a breakout season, a la Rudy Owens 2009? Until that question gets answered (and I think we’ll see the answer next year) I’m not grading Locke too heavily on outings like I saw tonight.