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Locke Struggles with Consistency in Pirates Loss

Prior to Thursday’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves, Clint Hurdle talked about how the back end of the starting rotation knows there is competition on the way, and after Jeff Locke’s performance in a 6-4 Atlanta win the Pirates manager elaborated on just what it is Locke needs to improve on.

Jeff Locke was tagged for three home runs against the Braves on Thursday.

Jeff Locke was tagged for three home runs against the Braves on Thursday.

“The one thing that continues to I think just challenge him is his overall consistency,” Hurdle said. “There’s some sequences that are sharp but there’s too many misses. There’s too many pitches that are a ball out of his hand.”

Thursday’s start won’t be remembered for the pitches that were balls out of Locke’s hand.

“Some balls that when he missed were right over the plate,” Hurdle said. “The home run has kind of bit him a little bit along the way.”

Locke was tagged for long balls by the Braves’ B.J. Upton, Chris Johnson and Justin Upton, but was bailed out several times by the Pirates hitting home runs of their own.

“They hit the ball over the fence,” Locke said. “I threw some pitches I wish I could take back. A couple of guys don’t really miss those mistakes too often. The biggest thing for me is I really didn’t get ahead of too many people.”

Atlanta entered the game as the undeniable hottest team in baseball and lead the majors in home runs, so it was not too much of a surprise to see the Braves pound the ball they way they did, but Locke said that just makes it more fun for him especially with his history with Atlanta.

“It’s guys I’ve faced before and guys I’ve played with in the minor leagues,” he said. “We’ve got all the reports on them I’ve just got to be more efficient.”

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Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg is a beat writer and analyst for PiratesProspects.com. He is the former sports editor of the (Fairmont) Times West Virginian and has worked at the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and the (Ashland, Ky.) Independent. His freelance work has appeared in newspapers all over West Virginia and he has written for The Associated Press with stories posted to several major media outlets (ESPN.com, SportsIllustrated.com, FoxSports.com). Tom graduated from Marshall University in May 2010 with a degree in Print Journalism. Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomBraggSports

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Locke is the classic example of a 4A pitcher, yet another example of Huntington’s inability to evaluate talent. With all of the “can’t have enough pitching” comments over the years and draft emphasis on pitching, over slot signings of prep pitchers, drafting a potentail back up catcher with the fourth overall draft pick (Sanchez – -taken about a dozen picks before the Cardinals took Shelby Miller) in order to have money on hand to sign pitchers in the later rounds, how can it be that there are no Pirates-drafting starters in the majors?
    Anyone with a Baseball America subscription could have picked Cole or Taillon. to find gems in the later rounds it takes a talented scouting staff and GM. The PBC have neither.

    • meatygettingsaucy

      Locke was acquired at age 20 and was ranked the No. 7 prospect in an organization with a loaded farm system. Please tell me what crystal ball any GM has to say how that player will do three years down the road? Locke’s minor league numbers suggested he can be a major league pitcher (3.60 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 0.5 HR/9, 8.3 K/9). I am frustrated with his performance thus far as well but people expect way to much from guys not projected as anything more than a 5th starter. Locke has started 13 games in the majors, pitching a total of 66 2/3 innings. In that time his numbers have been less that stellar but giving up on Locke, citing him as a 4A pitcher and using the Huntington whipping post for using a player who is performing poorly before that said pitcher has even pitched a full season (average starter gets something like 30 starts) is ridiculous.

      Lastly, and I am never saying Locke will end up like this guy but to write a guy off so quickly would also mean you would throw out someone like Greg Maddux. In Maddux’s first 32 career starts, he got shelled: ERA above 5, 1.67 WHIP, 10.5 H/9, etc. Pirates fans need to give players a chance to get comfortable at the ML level before writing them off because they don’t come up and immediately become a world beater. Locke may not be the answer as a #5 starter but give the dude a chance to at least pitch more than 1 month in majors before saying he’s a 4A player and overreacting.

      • leadoff

        They get this crap about 4AAA starters and Huntington from the Pittsburgh writers and reporters, I have read this same dribble more than once, they don’t have patience and they don’t understand the development process both in the minors and at the major league level. Sometimes we get caught up at looking at what the other guy is doing a little too much. Having 5 NO.1’s is something that probably will never happen with any team in major league baseball, if it did it would cost roughly about 100Mil. a year. If we brought Cole and Taillon up tomorrow, they might not give you any better results than Locke is giving right now and then Huntington would really hear it, of course they are only willing to give this kid 3 starts before they want to run him out of town, might give Taillon and Cole 5 or 6 starts.

        • leadoff

          One other thing, if JMac can pitch as well as Locke just did against Atlanta, I will take it and so will the Pirates, holding them to 4 runs or less would be an accomplishment for him. I still think they should invoke the Mercy rule for the game he starts.

  • Blue Bomber

    Had some hope going into this year for Locke. He gave up a lot of hits last year, but he also missed some bats and ran up some decent K numbers. This year he isn’t getting any K’s and is still getting hit hard.
    Also, what’s up with the decision to move Wilson completely to the pen. He’s looked good in the brief time he’s pitched with the Bucs. Wouldn’t anyone besides me be at least mildy curious to see what he would do with a couple starts? I know he’s had control issues, but if that was something that was a must to be a Pirate starter, then why would we bother with Sanchez and Liriano? Inconsistent.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I, too had some hope for him.
      .
      Perhaps he and Wilson should switch roles? Locke did MUCH better out of the pen last year.

  • leadoff

    They might have a book on the Braves, but do they have an advanced scout and if they did, they might want to look into getting another one.
    I have seen the Braves several times and I don’t need much of a book to figure them out. Davis pitched for the Royals against the Braves and did what I would do to them, set them up with fastballs and shut them down with hooks only Davis did it with sliders. The Braves are the best fast ball hitting team I have seen in a long time, why that is not in the books is beyond me, they did not hit one good breaking ball anywhere yesterday.
    The Pirates played this team in Florida and as usual, most people including the Pirates just blew it off as a ST game, but I did not. They scored something like 15 runs against the Pirates, no long balls against breaking balls and that is exactly what they are doing now. I don’t care about stats, pitch tracks, fast tracks or any other device, breaking balls are breaking balls, fast balls are fastballs, if you got a fastball that breaks a lot, that would work, Locke does not, that is why he is a 4-5 in the rotation.
    I am not saying you can’t throw any fastballs, they just have to be located very well.
    One does not have to go very far back and realize what they did to the Nats a week ago, I wonder if the Nats are going to scrap their pitchers or just use another book the next time they play the Braves. Some team is going to figure them out, but I don’t think it is going to be the Pirates in this series.
    They should put a time limit on the game or a mercy rule when JMac pitches against them.

  • IC Bob

    I have no hope for Locke and had limited hope for him prior to the season. He just doesn’t have good stuff and with that you have to have perfect location and he doesn’t. He is the type of pitcher that could find lightning in a bottle sometime in his career but I doubt that happens anytime soon. At this point I am in favor of rushing Liriano back. Right now the Bucs have two legit major league starters on the staff. By June we should have 3 more available if Karstens, Morton and Cole come up with Liriano. Until then its going to be ugly.

    • leadoff

      Locke is a typical 5 in the rotation, he will give up his 4 runs a game and will get to the 6th inning a lot of times, but he will keep you in games, most teams have a guy like this on their staff. One other thing about him, he can with experience develop into a solid 4 or 5, right now he is a little shaky, but the teams he has pitched against this year so far will do that to you.
      I don’t believe the Pirates are going to give him time at the major league level to develop, I believe he will be sent down when some of these rehab guys get ready.
      If it were me, I might keep him on the staff and send a guy like Hughes down. I think Locke would be a good guy for the bullpen as a long reliever or as a 6th inning guy that can pitch 2 innings for you.

  • MaineBucs

    Jeff Locke has had success in the minors. To date, he has thrown less than 100 innings in the majors. In short, I believe it is a bit too early to conclude that he can’t make it in the majors.

    I liked some of Walk’s comments last night that it may take him some time to best learn how to pitch and that he should watch and learn from Wandy.

    I don;t believe any of us should ever expect Locke to ever rise above being a #3 starter and that he is more likely a #4 or a #5. Also, I would much rather see the Pirates running out Locke every 5th day at the present time than Jonathon Sanchez, and unless MacDonald suddenly finds himself, at least a little bit, Locke appears to be a better option than MacDonald as well.

    Lastly — at some point the Pirates need to give their in-house options a reasonable shot to see if they can be productive pitchers. With all of the injuries to the pitching staff, now strikes me as a good time to see if Locke can be an asset.

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