PITTSBURGH — Jeff Locke’s last seven starts have been a Jekyll and Hyde performance worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson.

In four straight wins from May 19 to June 4, he gave up nine runs in 29.1 innings, pitching into the seventh inning in all four starts.

Following that run, Locke threw two consecutive sub-par performances. He gave up 18 runs over just 8.2 innings, failing to get out of the fifth inning in either of the starts.

In Monday’s 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants, Locke pitched 6.2 shutout innings and surrendered just five hits.

Good Locke, bad Locke, good Locke.

But the results don’t seem to necessarily be in Locke’s hands. During his four-game hot stretch, hitters had just a .202 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In his subsequent two starts, that number skyrocketed to .486. On Monday, the Giants managed just a .227 line on batted balls.

So how much of good Locke, bad Locke is just luck? A good bit, he admitted.

“They hit the ball where we were standing tonight,” Locke said. “I seem to throw pretty well when I don’t walk anybody either. We kept guys off the bases with free passes, guys made plays when we needed them. I’m just trying to fill up the strike zone.”

The recipe for success is pretty clear, then: don’t walk batters and pitch to weak contact. He was spot on both of those points Monday. He didn’t give up any walks, the Giants recorded just one base hit and had less than a handful of hard-hit balls.

“I was on the same page with [Erik] Kratz the whole night,” Locke said. “We had a good game plan going in. We knew they were going to be aggressive. Someone that doesn’t strike a lot of people out like me, when you get early contact, weak contact, it’s going to play in your favor most of the time.”

On the season, Locke’s BABIP is .302, which is just a tick over the league average and Locke’s career average of .298. That’s a remarkably consistent figure for a player whose outcomes in 2016 have been widely variable.

KRATZ BASH

Kratz gave the Pirates’ the only offense they could muster against Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner with a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning. Left fielder Angel Pagan made a leaping attempt, but couldn’t hold on to the ball and it fell over the wall.

The home run was the first in the Major Leagues for Kratz since August of 2014 and his first hit since re-joining the Pirates. 
But rather than take credit for the one in the runs column on the scoreboard, Kratz was more focused on the zero.

“The nothing part of if it is what I came over [from the Angels],” he said. “I can hit some home runs, but the zeroes will always win you games.”

NOTES

• Jordy Mercer hit 2 for 4 in the leadoff position. He’s now batting .321/.400/.528 in the first spot.

• The Pirates still do not have a scheduled starter for Tuesday, but Wilfredo Boscan seems more and more likely.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Is this the miracle that we were all hoping for? Locke shuts out the Giants and the bullpen does not blow it for him and then Kratz hits an HR that was caught at the wall and then dropped into the stands. Hell I will take it and maybe, just maybe, it was what the doctor ordered and the ship can stop taking on water and the bilge pumps can start working. Start raising the sails and begin moving up in the standings.

  2. I’m so tired of anyone using BABIP as a “good luck” “bad luck” thing. When you throw the ball where you want as a pitcher, they are going to have a lower line drive % and thus a lower BABIP generally speaking. When you don’t throw it where you want, it will be high because the hitter can crush it and even hit it where THEY want. This has nothing to do with luck, it has to do with command and well…..talent. Especially if you aren’t a flamethrower. DUH!

    • There’s some truth to this – but not nearly as much as some people might think. A few career BABIP figures for a random group of top pitchers with great stuff/command:

      Gerrit Cole .309
      Roy Oswalt .301
      Steve Strasburg .300
      Max Scherzer .296
      AJ Burnett .295
      CC Sabathia .295
      Roy Halladay .292
      Jeff Locker .292
      Randy Johnson .291
      Justin Verlander .289
      Roger Clemens .284
      Greg Maddux .281
      Johan Santana .276
      Clayton Kershaw .271

      So certain pitchers may be able to get outs on 2-3 more batted balls out of every hundred, as compared to the average pitcher. That equates to maybe one per game. But many of the top pitchers in recent MLB history haven’t done any better than Locke. Note that Locke’s BABIP is better than the average of Cole, Oswalt, Strasburg, Scherzer, Burnett, Sabathia, Halladay, Randy Johnson, and Verlander.

      • You are skewing my point. All those pitchers are high strikeout pitchers. You have to compare Jeff Locke’s BABIP to other “control” pitchers, not other strikout pitchers. Take away any pitcher whom averaged more than 7K’s/9 innings and what do you have left?

  3. Jeff Locke has made 14 starts. In 4 of those starts, he has given up 32 runs in 17 IP, a horrid 16.94 ERA.

    In his other 10 starts, he has tossed 65.2 IP and given up 18 runs, a 2.48 ERA.

    In other words, in almost 3/4 of his starts, Jeffy pitches like a #1 starter!

    Amazing.

    • When Locke stays outside of the middle of the plate AND gets the proper calls he can be very effective. When he is not doing that and throws his off speed offerings down the middle it is painful to watch.

  4. Even factoring in last night and Miami Locke has been horrid per his peripherals. Asked Tim about Ray changing his delivery and why he dropped the curve for the slider/slurve. He had decent results with curve, makes no sense to me

  5. Who would have thought, considering how the Cubs humiliated them in Chicago, that the Pirates would beat Bumgartner with Locke pitching? And Kratz with a HR? Maybe the Giants thought they could just show up and win? Anyway, it was good and suprising win, but I still don’t want Kratz on the roster or Locke in the rotation….

  6. I wouldn’t be the only one to say how this was the weirdest win of the year but I thought it was hysterical! When Locke gave up that double in the 7th, I thought it was funny w Hurdle flying out of the dugout to take him out of the game only for everyone to realize Mad Bum was at the plate w 2 outs! ALSO Mad Bum will be haunted w that Kratz HR. Hahah!!!

  7. This was the ultimate Can’t Predict Basbeall game. Locke out-duels Bumgarner with the lone run supplied by Erik freaking Kratz.

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